World News Brief, Tuesday December 18

Japan's Liberal Democratic Party win election; North Korea commemorates one-year anniversary of Kim Jong-il's death; Taliban target US company in Afghanistan; EU and Singapore sign free trade pact; and more

Top of the Agenda: Japan's Election Sets Conservative Tone

Japan's conservative Liberal Democratic Party, led by former prime minister Shinzo Abe, won the country's general elections, regaining power (JapanTimes) in the lower house after three years in the opposition and ending the government led by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Democratic Party of Japan. The yen plunged to its lowest in more than a year and a half against the dollar on Monday after the victory for the LDP, which is committed to aggressive monetary easing (Reuters). Abe's hardline position on China also drew public concerns from China (AFP), which reiterated its stance that the disputed East China Sea islands remain Chinese territory.


"Earlier this month, Japan entered its fourth recession since 2000, and it was clear that economic considerations motivated those Japanese who voted to abandon the DPJ. But it is the LDP's foreign policy platform that may have the biggest global impact," writes Hannah Beech for TIME.

"The big question about Abe and the LDP government that's going to emerge from this election is to what they'll give priority. If they follow the dictum, 'It's the economy, stupid,' and focus on getting some growth, a more dovish governor at the Bank of Japan--which he has a chance to appoint in April--and producing some results, then they have a chance to consolidate their gains," writes Gerald Curtis for

"An analysis of the vote as well as Abe's own comments suggests he would be best served by focusing on what matters most to voters - the economy - and steering clear of divisive issues such as revising Japan's pacifist constitution. That said, aggressive moves by China in a territorial row over tiny islands in the East China Sea could act to bolster support for Abe's tough-talking stance toward its giant rival," writes Linda Sieg for Reuters.



North Korea Marks Kim Jong-Il's Death

North Korea commemorated the first anniversary of the death of its former leader Kim Jong-il with a ceremony at a renovated mausoleum (Yonhap), where first lady Ri Sol-ju appeared to be seen in late stages of pregnancy.

CFR's Scott Snyder discusses North Korea's transition after Kim Jong-Il in this blog post.


Taliban target US company in Afghanistan

EU and Singapore sign free trade pact

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