Japan's Liberal Democratic Party is set to choose its replacement for Shinzo Abe, who resigned suddenly last week, in voting Sunday. The winner will become prime minister Tuesday. Although early prognoses hyped hawk Taro Aso as the favorite, his close association with the outgoing PM has hurt him. Victory is almost assured for his opponent, the 71-year-old chief cabinet secretary Yasuo Fukuda.
Although he has already pledged to continue Japan's strategic alliance with the US, including its unpopular involvement in Afghanistan, Fukuda is expected to be less US-centric his thinking, exhibiting new openness to his Asian neighbors, including China and North Korea. Whether Fukuda, the son of renowned former prime minister Takeo Fukuda, will be able to lead the LDP to yet another general election victory remains unclear.