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[Tokyo Outlook] Will Kishida Turn Crises into Opportunities in 2024?

Kishida must regain the people's trust to steer Japan through a volatile geopolitical landscape marked by ongoing wars and escalating tensions in Asia.



Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivers a policy speech at a plenary session of the House of Representatives at the Diet on October 23. (©Sankei by Yasuhiro Yajima)

As 2023 draws to a close, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida faces an unprecedented crisis. He is under intense criticism for a funds scandal involving the Liberal Democratic Party's largest faction, the Abe faction. Members of the faction are being accused of failing to report revenues from fundraising parties.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office's special investigation squad is searching Abe faction-related entities. The investigation is expected to reveal details about the orchestrators, methods, scale, and purpose of the slush fund. It may also uncover the secret funds of other factions.

During a December 13 press conference, Kishida pledged to "restore trust in politics." He also mentioned a cabinet reshuffle to address the issue of politics and money. However, as the investigation progresses, calls questioning his accountability are likely to intensify.

Support for Kishida's cabinet, which was over 60% in July 2022, has now plummeted to around 20%. Some pundits suggest that the cabinet has entered "dangerous waters where anything can happen." From the end of 2023 to the New Year, Prime Minister Kishida faces a battle for his political life.

A Year of Danger

On the global stage, tragic wars dominate headlines. The Russo-Ukrainian war will enter its third year in spring 2024. The campaign waged by Russia's President Vladimir Putin, which has embroiled the United States and Europe, is likely to become a prolonged conflict.

Furthermore, the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas launched a deadly terrorist attack against its arch-enemy Israel in October. This triggered a war that has continued to escalate, raising concerns that it might expand into a broader conflict in the Middle East.

More civilians, including women and children, are becoming victims of these wars with each new day.

Injured people are transported from one hospital to another after an explosion in Gaza, Palestinian Territories, on October 17. (©Getty/Kyodo)

In Japan's neighborhood, dictatorships are enhancing their military capabilities. China is considering military force to annex Taiwan while North Korea continues to conduct ballistic missile tests.

Despite Japan's efforts for peace, global conflicts and divisions continue to intensify. In Asia, neo-imperialist nations wield nuclear weapons in an attempt to alter the status quo. If these nations become more powerful, it could spark a new conflict in Asia and draw the world into a prelude to a major war.

Facing Reality

Amid all this, JAPAN Forward's most-read article in the past two weeks was a review of Japan's latest Godzilla film. The article was written by Peter Tasker, a British financial analyst and seasoned Japan watcher.

In the review, Tasker points out that the Godzilla films mirror the society of their time. He concludes, "Rather, he becomes a metaphor for all possible forms of human destructiveness. He was there all along, and he will never go away. Japan finally seems to be ready to accept that reality."

Still from "Shin Godzilla" (2016, provided by TOHO CO., LTD.)

In reality, Japan is surrounded by three "Godzillas" of varying sizes: Russia, China, and North Korea. They all have nuclear capability and are unwilling to cease aggression. Japan must confront this reality and take countermeasures accordingly. Otherwise, it risks facing a crisis similar to Ukraine's — one that threatens the nation's very existence.

Prime Minister Kishida stands at a crossroads. Either he turns the "kickback" crisis into an opportunity or sinks without ever recovering. The coming year is a crucial phase that will shape Japan's future. We hope that 2024 will be a brighter year for Japan and the world.

Watch for the next issue on January 15.

JAPAN Forward is now in its seventh year. Join us as we continue to share the true face of Japan with the world. For inquiries, please call 0570-033-433 (Sankei iD) or email us at info@japan-forward.com.


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Yasuo Naito, Editor in Chief, JAPAN Forward


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