Suga takes the reins from Abe as new PM

There was rapturous applause Wednesday (September 16), as Japan's government confirmed the news the world had been expecting - Yoshihide Suga was voted the country's prime minister.

Although Suga is Japan's first new leader in nearly eight years, his new cabinet is relatively familiar- keeping about half of the members from predecessor Shinzo Abe's lineup.

Even Abe's younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, was handed the defense portfolio.

The outgoing PM was sentimental as he left his office for the last time.

"Since I took over the administration, I have worked hard every single day to revitalize the economy and to conduct diplomacy that would protect the national interest. During this time, I am proud to have taken on various challenges with the Japanese people."

Suga won a LDP leadership race by a landslide on Monday and faces a number of challenges in office, including tackling COVID-19 while reviving a battered economy and dealing with a rapidly aging society.

But with little direct diplomatic experience, Suga must also cope with an intensifying U.S.-China confrontation, build ties with the winner of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election and try to keep Japan's own relations with Beijing on track.

There is speculation that Suga might call a snap election for parliament's lower house to take advantage of any rise in public support, although he has said handling the pandemic and reviving the economy were his top priorities.