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EDITORIAL | Kishida Fails to Convey Sense of Security Crisis to the Diet

After summits affirming defense cooperation with the US and the Philippines, Kishida avoided tackling China, Taiwan, and the South China Sea before the Diet.

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Prime Minister Fumio Kishida participates in a question-and-answer session on April 18 in the Lower House after his report on his US trip. (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reported on his recent visit to the United States on April 18 to a plenary session of the Lower House of the Diet. 

At the Japan-US summit meeting in Washington, the two nations presented themselves as "global partners." They agreed to strengthen their cooperation in a wide range of areas. Among them, defense and national security, economic security, and advanced technology featured prominently.

This coming together reflected a joint sense of crisis regarding the international security situation. They feared, for example, that if deterrence efforts were not made, a Taiwan emergency could also become a Japan emergency. On this, Kishida's visit to the US can be judged a major success. The two sides agreed on concrete measures to improve the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-US alliance. 

It was the government's recognition of an international security crisis that formed the backbone of the Japan-US agreement. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister did not effectively convey recognition of the current security environment to the Diet. 

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr along with President Biden and PM Kishida at their April 11 summit meeting. (Courtesy of Prime Minister's Office)

Speak Out Loud

At one point, Kishida said, "We must at all costs preserve and strengthen a free and open international order based on the rule of law." Nevertheless, he barely touched on China, which is the biggest reason why he needed to make that appeal. 

Kishida also mentioned responses to various issues in the context of opposing attempts to unilaterally change the status quo through the use of force. Naturally, those issues refer to China, but he did not say so. 

Furthermore, he didn't use relevant language on Taiwan in the joint statement issued after the summit, namely, "the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as an indispensable element of global security and prosperity." 

Nor did he mention the trilateral summit meeting of the leaders of Japan, the US, and the Philippines. The Philippines is strategically located south of Taiwan and borders the South China Sea. Perhaps it was because he thought it was unlikely to win applause in the Diet. 

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Reaction and Mixed Recognition

Kishida must more forthrightly express concern about China's actions and intentions. During the question-and-answer session, Representative Kentaro Gemma of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) lauded that the meetings in Washington had confirmed the strength of Japan-US relations. He also appreciated how Japan had recognized the importance of its contribution to the peace and stability of the international community. 

Kentaro Genma of the Constitutional Democratic Party asks a question at a plenary session of the Lower House on April 18. (© Kyodo)

Gemma was certainly right. But the fact is that his party, the CDP, does not even recognize Japan's right to collective self-defense. Unless it changes its position on this, the CDP would not be qualified to form a government. 

Japan Communist Party chairman Kazuo Shii typically criticized the outcome. He charged that the proposed new command and control structure for the Self-Defense Forces and US military "will pave the way for the SDF to participate in wars." Nevertheless, the JCP's position can hardly guarantee peace. It simply negates efforts to strengthen deterrence. 

Japan Communist Party Chairman Kazuo Shii at the Lower House on April 18. (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)
Yuichiro Tamaki of the Democratic Party for the People at the Lower House on April 18. (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

The ruling Liberal-Democratic Party and Komeito, as well as the opposition Japan Innovation Party (Nippon Ishin no Kai) and the Democratic Party for the People all gave Kishida's US visit high marks. However, DPFP leader Yuichiro Tamaki also expressed criticism. He was correct in that the government has not presented any active cyber defense proposal. 

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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun