Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

Fumio Kishida has appointed a pro-China heavyweight in the post of foreign minister as the Japanese prime minister aims to promote the country’s national and economic security after his election victory last month.

The choice of Yoshimasa Hayashi, a former defense and education minister, reflects Kishida’s efforts to strengthen ties with the US while playing a more assertive role in regional security to address China’s growing threat, analysts say.

The Harvard-educated, English-speaking 60-year-old is seen as a potential future prime minister and heads an association of lawmakers that promotes relations with China. But experts believe he will adopt a nuanced strategy toward Beijing and Taiwan without disrupting ties with the Biden administration.

“He does have a friendlier attitude towards China, but he has a precise understanding of the Biden administration’s China strategy and it is unlikely that he will pursue a policy that will create tensions with the US,” said Atsuo Ito. , a former staff member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. party and now a political analyst.

Ito said the appointment is an indication that Kishida has more confidence in his political prestige, giving him the freedom to appoint allies in key positions. Hayashi is part of the prime minister’s own political faction, an organized group of MPs who are teaming up and exchanging their support for commitments on policies and ministerial posts.

When Kishida formed his first cabinet in early October afterwards succeeding Yoshihide Suga as LDP leader and prime minister, he rewarded the factions that supported him during the party leadership race. This has led to important positions for allies of Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister, including the appointment of Akira Amari, the architect of Japan’s new economic security policy, as the party’s secretary general.

After Amari became the first person in his position to lose his seat in the Diet’s lower house, Kishida replaced him with Toshimitsu Motegi, who served as Foreign Minister.

In Wednesday’s cabinet shuffle, Kishida also appointed Gen. Nakatani, the former defense minister, as a special adviser on human rights.

“It was Prime Minister Kishida’s own decision to make these appointments,” Ito said.

Kishida faces challenges in retaining that momentum ahead of next summer’s House elections.

After maintaining a comfortable majority in the lower house, Kishida intends to focus on compiling a major stimulus package that will include cash handouts to recharge the pandemic-plagued economy.

But some economists have questioned the need to distribute ¥ 100,000 ($ 883) to households with children under the age of 18, even as Kishida tried to ward off the criticism by imposing an income limit.

Another task will be to ensure Japan’s competitiveness in a world of increasing technology nationalism, which has driven Kishida to create a new role of Minister of Economic Security.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the world’s largest contract chip maker, has confirmed plans to partner with Sony to build a $ 7 billion manufacturing plant in Japan.

Kishida said the government would include support for TSMC’s plant in its economic package, stressing the need to build a supply chain that is resilient enough to survive disruptions such as the Covid-19 pandemic. One person familiar with the plan said the Japanese government would offer several billion dollars in subsidies to support the project.

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