By Ju-min Park, Antoni Slodkowski and Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, reinvigorated by a surprisingly strong election victory, announced on Monday that he would pursue defense policies aimed at deterring China, tackling climate change and accelerating recovery from the pandemic.
Kishida’s conservative Liberal Democrats (LDP) defied predictions and retained their one-party majority in Sunday’s election, solidifying their position at the head of the rowdy party and giving him more freedom in parliament, with a resumption of the coronavirus pandemic – including additional budget – as a priority.
Some feared that Kishida, in power for just a month, would become another of Japan’s short-term prime ministers, but the election results – which have boosted stocks – will allow him to make his own imprint on politics ahead. an upper house election next summer.
The LDP’s solid victory in the legislative elections also allayed market fears of a massive bond issue, as this will likely ease the pressure on Kishida https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japan- ruling-partys-election-win- takes-pressure-off-pm-bigger-spending-2021-11-01 to inflate the size of a recovery plan in the event of a pandemic.
“We will quickly implement policies to respond to the voices of people we have received across the country who are keen on political stability and policy implementation,” the prime minister said at a press conference Monday.
One of them will be recovery from the pandemic, with Kishida pledging to work for a supplementary budget by the end of the year, to consider restarting a travel subsidy program to revive domestic tourism and to develop a “large-scale” recovery plan around mid-November.
But he also emphasized defense in a nod to the more hawkish views of those in the PLD who supported him in his leadership bid, which could become trickier given the electoral gains made by the LDP. accommodating junior coalition partner Komeito.
The LDP included an unprecedented pledge to double defense spending to 2% of GDP in its party platform, reflecting its haste to acquire weapons to deter the Chinese military in the contested East China Sea.
“When we think about protecting people’s lives and livelihoods, a budget shouldn’t come first,” Kishida said.
“We have to think about what is really needed to achieve this. I would like to lead this debate carefully so that we can gain Komeito’s understanding.”
DIPLOMACY, CLEAN ENERGY
Kishida added that Japan should consider the ability to strike enemy bases as an option to counter growing defense technology in other countries.
“What is important is to constantly check whether a system is in place to protect people’s lives and livelihoods in a changing international context and advanced technologies,” he said.
The Prime Minister, who spoke of “personal diplomacy” during the campaign, wasted no time in kicking off by announcing he would be leaving for Glasgow and the COP26 climate summit on Tuesday for his debut in face to face at an international conference.
Noting that his stimulus package would include investments in clean energy and financial aid to Asia, he also hoped that Japan would play a leadership role on zero emissions in Asia.
Japan has set itself a 2050 target to become carbon neutral, and Kishida believes – despite considerable public opposition – that nuclear power should remain an option.
While the first exit polls on Sunday suggested that the PLD should rely on the Komeito to retain the majority, the conservative party – in power for a few years since its founding in 1955 – has instead won a solid majority on its own. of 261 seats.
The party has taken a few notable blows, including a defeat to LDP secretary general Akira Amari in his one-seat constituency.
Local media reported that Amari would resign, along with his replacement, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who will be confirmed at a party meeting on Thursday.
Voters took the results in their wake.
“This is pretty much what I expected, although I thought there might be a little more impact from their handling of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Satoshi Tsujimoto, an office worker 53 years old. He did not vote for the PLD.
(Additional reporting by Sakura Murakami, Rikako Maruyama and Kohei Miyazaki; written by Elaine Lies; edited by Lincoln Feast, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Giles Elgood)