Japan's newly-elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has returned to office facing a host of diplomatic challenges.
But perhaps none is greater than the wariness, and fear abroad that his rightwing, nationalistic views will strain Tokyo's relations with Washington and create further tensions with Beijing and Seoul, the Japan times reports.
Next month, Abe will travel to Washington, his first official trip abroad as prime minister.
Abe has emphasized the importance of the Japan-U.S. relationship, especially with respect to the military, but there are a number of specific bilateral issues the U.S. will likely press Japan on.
Kurt Tong, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo during a symposium in Washington last week, said that in the area of the alliance, certainly 2013 is the year they should break the bottleneck involved with moving Futenma air base to Henoko.
He said that on economic affairs, there is a huge opportunity facing Japan if it can find a way to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
But, in the coming year, we also expect coordination on our respective approaches to nuclear power.
Abe may also find himself pressured on the issue of children born of Japanese and American parents who were abducted to Japan by estranged parents.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution condemning international child abductions, and specifically named Japan as one of 10 countries to which American children were most frequently abducted.
While former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told U.S. President Barack Obama in May that he would like to continue preparations for the earliest possible conclusion of The Hague Convention, it's unclear how Abe will deal with U.S. pressure on the issue.
But it is the approach Abe takes toward China that has drawn the most attention in recent days.
There is concern worldwide that Tokyo-Beijing relations will continue to worsen, although there have been suggestions that because Abe has the trust of conservatives and nationalists in Japan, he might have the political strength needed to deal with China in a way that smooths relations.
However, Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University, said Abe will be constrained in his China policy by other members of the LDP.
And Abe must also mend strained relations with South Korea, which went into a tailspin when current South Korean President Lee Myung Bak landed on Takeshima, called Dokdo in South Korea, in the Sea of Japan in August.
Political observers in Tokyo said that now is the best time to repair relations, given the recent change of leadership in both nations. (ANI)