Japan's new PM seeks a fresh mandate to manage virus and economy

Fumio Kishida, Japan's new Prime Minister, announced that he would dissolve the lower house in preparation for the Oct. 31 elections. He is seeking a new mandate to address the coronavirus pandemic and other security threats from China or North Korea.

Japan's new PM seeks a fresh mandate to manage virus and economy

Parliament elected Kishida to replace Yoshihide Sug, who resigned after just one year. Suga's lack of handling the pandemic and his insistence on holding the Tokyo Olympics while the virus spread had eroded support.

Kishida said Monday night that the fight against coronavirus was continuing. This was his first news conference since taking office. "COVID-19 is our top priority and I will address the problem taking into account the worst-case scenario." Kishida said that he would review past virus handlings and set up a crisis management unit.

He also promised to work for a large-scale package of recovery to help those affected by the pandemic.

Kishida stated that "in order to take large scale COVID-19 actions, I need the people's mandate" and added that he would not attend COP-26 or G-20 climate meetings in person.

Former foreign minister, Kishida (64), was once considered moderate. However, he became more conservative on issues such as gender equality and security in order to win over conservatives within his Liberal Democratic Party. His victory as party leader last week was seen as a decision to choose stability and continuity over change.

According to Hirokazu Matsuno, the new Chief Cabinet Secretary, Kishida has replaced all but two Suga Cabinet members. The lineup, which includes 13 new posts, was announced by Hirokazu Matsuno. The majority of the posts were given to the powerful parties that voted for Kishida during the party election. Three women are now included in the government of Suga, compared to two.

Seiko Noda was a veteran female lawmaker and one of four candidates for the party leadership. She became the minister responsible for the country's declining birthrate, local revitalization, and other issues. Noriko Horiuchi was elected the vaccinations minister to replace Taro Kono who finished second in the race for party leadership.

Toshimitsu Mtegi, the Foreign Minister, and Nobuo Kishi (the younger brother of Shinzo Abe), were retained. This ensured continuity in Japan's diplomatic and security policy as Japan seeks to work closely with Washington under the bilateral Security Pact.

After he was elected, President Joe Biden had a conversation with Kishida on these issues. According to a White House statement, they confirmed the strength of their bilateral alliance. Biden also noted that he is looking forward to strengthening their relationship, given their shared vision of an Indo-Pacific region free and open to all, according to a White House statement.

Kishida supports strengthening Japan-U.S. security relations and partnerships with other likeminded democracies in Asia and Europe, in part to counter China's nuclear-armed North Korea. He promised to increase Japan's missile defense and naval defense capabilities.

While acknowledging the importance of dialogue with China as a important neighbor and trade partner he said that China's attempts to alter the status quo in the East-South China Seas must be stopped.

Kishida created a new Cabinet position to address the economic aspects of Japan's national defense. He appointed Takayuki Kobayashi (46 years old), who is relatively new in parliament.

Taro Aso, Finance Minister, was promoted to the top post in the party and was replaced by Shunichi Suzuki Suzuki (68).

Kishida stated that he was open to meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, without any preconditions, to resolve the matter of Japanese citizens who were abducted to North Korea decades ago. He stated that he would cooperate with President Joe Biden to resolve North Korea's missile and nuclear threats.

Kishida is also facing worsening ties to South Korea over historical issues, even though he reached a 2015 agreement in Seoul to end a dispute over the treatment of women sexually abused during World War II by Japan's military.

Moon Jae-in, the South Korean President, sent Monday a letter to Kishida congratulating him. He also offered to work with him to improve relations.

His party's decline in popularity is due to Suga's apparent high-handedness regarding the pandemic.

He will also need to ensure Japan's healthcare systems, vaccination campaign, and other virus measures are prepared for a possible resurgence in COVID-19 during winter while slowly normalizing economic and social activity.

Voters were pleased to see new faces in government, even if they are slightly younger.

Karen Einaka, a 28-year old designer, said that she hopes the new government will take into account younger people's opinions and allow younger politicians to assume important roles.

Makoto Okubo, a business owner, said that at least "Kishida seems more energetic than Suga".

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