TOKYO -- Hours after his new cabinet was sworn in on Sept. 16, Japan's newly appointed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met privately in his office with his 20 ministers. Each, in turn, got a pep talk and a modest-sounding brief of two policy goals apiece.
Suga had succeeded former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a backroom deal following the latter's announcement of resignation on Aug. 28. The longest-serving prime minister in recent Japanese history, Abe had left a legacy that Suga, his chief cabinet secretary, had been chosen to protect. The 71-year-old, a backroom strategist and political arm-twister throughout his career, was now thrust into the role of frontman. But not, presumably, for long.