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EDITORIAL | With New Cabinet, Kishida Must Push for Difficult But Necessary Reforms

Amid the increasing threat of despotic regimes, the new Kishida Cabinet must prioritize constitutional reform to establish defense as a core state function.



Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida poses with his new cabinet at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan, September 13, 2023. (© Kazuhiro Nogi /Pool via REUTERS)

The second Cabinet of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been launched along with a new lineup for senior officers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The new administration is faced with a mountain of issues. But, hopefully, the Prime Minister will display leadership in tackling them.

Remaining in their posts are LDP Vice President Taro Aso, Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, Minister of State for Economic Security Sanae Takaichi, and METI Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who has responsibility for the discharge of treated water from the TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The new lineup maintains the essential framework of the previous administration.

Seiji Kihara lost his position as deputy chief Cabinet secretary. Even though he is a close confidant of Kishida, Kihara's relatives are currently drawing scrutiny. The groundwork is being laid for him to become LDP deputy secretary general. However, it remains to be seen how that will go down with the Japanese public. 

Japan's new Foreign Minister is Yoko Kamikawa. September 13, 2023. (©Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Japan's new Defense Minister is Minoru Kihara. September 13, 2023. (©Sankei by Masamichi Kirihara)

New Faces

There are new faces among ministers holding security-related portfolios as a result of the Cabinet reshuffle. Former justice minister Yoko Kamikawa now serves as foreign minister. And former special advisor to the prime minister Minoru Kihara is the new defense minister. The number of women in the Cabinet also jumped from two to five, matching the previous record. We hope they all prove successful.

After the unveiling of the new lineup, Kishida told a press conference that his new Cabinet has the vigor needed to cause change. He further noted, "We have appointed ministers with strong abilities needed to execute policies related to the pillars of the economy, society, and diplomacy/security."

He added that the first priority would be economic policies to respond to price increases. 

The Post-Post-Cold War Era

Since taking office, Prime Minister Kishida has responded to several difficult issues. These include decisions on three security documents, including the National Security Strategy. The NSS incorporates a substantial increase in defense spending and the possession of a counterattack capability. Kishida has also promoted the restart of nuclear power plants, which are a stable power source. He furthermore pushed for the discharge of treated water into the ocean at Fukushima

We hope that Kishida will continue to work for the people and not avoid grappling with difficult issues. The world is entering a new age as the "post-Cold War" period comes to an end. This is demonstrated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The international order based on the "rule of law" is under serious challenge from despotic states such as China, Russia, and North Korea

Japan cannot fulfill its international responsibility simply by defending its own territory and airspace. We have a responsibility to join hands with European countries, the United States, Australia, South Korea, and others to defend freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. We look to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to lead the way. 

Japan is chairing the G7 group of industrialized nations in 2023. We must continue to support Ukraine and lead the international community in thwarting Russia's ambitions.

This China Coast Guard vessel tracked Japanese fishing boats in the territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands. (Photo from April 10, 2022 provided by Kazushi Kinjo.)

A Comprehensive Defense System

Another thorny problem that confronts the Kishida administration is how to deal with a China that refuses to stop its hegemonic behavior. Moreover, Chinese President Xi Jinping is ratcheting up military pressure on Taiwan with his ultimate goal being to annex that democracy.

It is only natural that we should be constantly aware of the danger that "a Taiwan crisis is a Japan crisis." Japan and China have close economic relations. However, we need to stand firm on issues such as the Senkaku Islands, economic security, and the unjustified embargo on Japanese marine products. This is a prerequisite for Japan's prosperity. 

We cannot expect policy decisions on their own to achieve the drastic strengthening of defense capabilities that our nation requires. Japan needs to improve the sustainability of military operations, such as by possessing counterattack capabilities and adequate ammunition. In addition, we would like to see solid progress in cybersecurity and defense R&D as well.

The development of airports and ports for contingency use and the construction of underground shelters are the responsibilities of ministries other than the Ministry of Defense (Self-Defense Forces). Therefore, the comprehensive reinforcement of the defense system, including these measures, will not proceed without the Prime Minister's personal attention.

Constitutional Reform by 2024

Constitutional reform is also urgently needed. The Prime Minister has indicated that he aims to achieve this goal during his term as party president, which ends in September 2024. The ruling and opposition parties must finalize a draft of the proposed constitutional amendments at the extraordinary Diet session scheduled for the fall of 2023. This then needs to be proposed at the ordinary Diet session in 2024.

Article 9 is the crux of the matter. The second clause stipulates that Japan will never maintain the potential to wage war. This should be removed so that the nation will be clearly permitted to maintain armed forces. But, as a preliminary step, it would be meaningful to spell out the status of the Self-Defense Forces in the Constitution. That is because it would allow us to make it clear that defense is an important role of the state. The Constitution also needs to include a clause dealing with emergency situations. 

As president of the LDP, Prime Minister Kishida must win over the Komeito party, its coalition partner. Komeito has been less than positive about constitutional reform.

Emperor Naruhito
Emperor Naruhito and the Imperial Family resume the annual New Year greetings with members of the public at the Imperial palace on January 2, 2023. (© Sankei by Hideyuki Matsui)

Clarifying Imperial Succession

The establishment of a stable mode of imperial succession is vital for the nation. It cannot be put off any longer. We should protect the history of the imperial lineage, which, with some early exceptions, has been through the male (patrilineal) line.

We already have the answer in that respect. The government's expert panel has already submitted a report that includes a proposal that allows former male members of the Imperial Family to again be considered members within the line of succession. And the government has already submitted the report to the Diet. 

As with the issue of constitutional reform, it is Prime Minister Kishida, as president of the party, who should provide the leadership needed to see the report recommendations adopted. 

The issue of the abductees taken to North Korea is also extremely important. The victims and their family members are fast aging. It has become a true battle against time. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun


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