As Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe enters his seventh year in office, he is zeroing in on revising the postwar constitution and resolving a territorial dispute with Russia as a way to leave an enduring legacy.
Close advisers like Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso have repeatedly warned Abe not to fall into the trap that tends to hamstring leaders on their way out, like Sato. He won his fourth term as the LDP leader after negotiating the return of U.S.-controlled Okinawa to Japan. But he quickly became a lame duck and lost the party battle to install his chosen successor.
To avoid such a fate, he must keep his plate full with robust policy goals, Aso tells Abe.
Abe also sees resolving a dispute with over the southern Kuril Islands, which are administered by Russia and claimed by Japan as the Northern Territories. If there is a breakthrough, Abe will be remembered for that for generations to come.
Japan's longest-serving prime ministers have each left a mark that is synonymous with their names -- the return of Okinawa under Sato, the privatization of the Japanese National Railways under Yasuhiro Nakasone and the privatization of Japan Post under Junichiro Koizumi. Those leaders also maintained their grip on power by pitting potential successors against each other.
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