International

Japan’s parliament elects former diplomat Fumio Kishida as new prime minister

By The Associated Press

Tokyo: Japan’s parliament on Monday elected former foreign minister Fumio Kishida as the new prime minister.

Kishida replaced his predecessor Yoshihide Suga, who resigned from his cabinet earlier in the day.

Kishida and his cabinet will be sworn in later in the day.

Kishida, who replaced Suga as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party last week, has been tasked with tackling the pandemic and other domestic and global challenges and leading an impending national election within weeks.

A former foreign minister, Kishida was known as a moderate liberal, but apparently became fanatical to win over influential conservatives in the party.

He is firmly established in the conservative establishment and his victory in the party election was a substitute for continuity and stability over change.

Japanese media reported that two of the 20 cabinet positions would be replaced under Suga, 13 of them being appointed to ministerial positions for the first time.

Most of the positions went to powerful factions who voted for Kishida in the party elections.

Only three of the two women have reportedly been inducted into Suga’s government.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi are to be retained, ensuring the continuation of Japan’s diplomacy and security policies, as the country seeks to work closely with Washington under a bilateral security agreement due to the rise of China and rising tensions in the region. Including around Taiwan.

Kishida is to create a new cabinet position aimed at dealing with the economic dimensions of Japan’s national security, appointing Takayuki Kobayashi, 46, who is relatively new to parliament.

Japan faces increasing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, which last month tested ballistic missiles capable of hitting targets in Japan.

Kishida also faces deteriorating relations with fellow US ally South Korea over issues of history.

An urgent task at home would be to turn around the declining popularity of his party, hurt by Suga’s perceived high on the pandemic and other issues.

Kishida is expected to deliver a policy speech later this week before the lower house of parliament is dissolved ahead of a general election in mid-November.

It must also ensure that Japan’s health care system, vaccination campaigns and other virus measures are prepared for a possible resurgence of COVID-19 in the winter, while gradually normalizing social and economic activities.

Kishida said last week that his top priority would be the economy.

Kishida’s “new capitalism” is largely a continuation of Abe’s economic policies.

Their aim is to increase the income of more people and create a cycle of growth and distribution.

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