Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, invigorated by a surprisingly strong election victory, signalled on Monday he would pursue defence policies aimed at deterring China, address climate change and accelerate recovery from the pandemic.
Mr. Kishida’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party defied predictions and held onto its single party majority in a Sunday election, solidifying his position as head of the fractious party and giving him a freer hand in parliament, with recovery from the coronavirus pandemic – including an extra budget – taking priority.
Some had feared that Mr. Kishida, only in power for a month, could become another one of Japan’s short-term prime ministers, but the election results – which set stocks surging in relief – will allow him to put his own stamp on policies ahead of an upper house election next summer.
The LDP’s solid victory in Japan’s parliamentary election also eased bond market fears of massive bond issuance because it will likely take pressure off Mr. Kishida to inflate the size of a pandemic-relief stimulus package.
We will speedily implement policies to respond to the voices of the people we have received nationwide that strongly desire political stability and policy implementation, the prime minister said at a news conference on Monday.
Key among those will be recovery from the pandemic, with Kishida pledging to work for an extra budget by the end of the year, look into restarting a travel subsidy programme to revive domestic tourism and compile a “large-scale” stimulus package around mid-November.
But he also placed emphasis on defence in a nod to the more hawkish views of backers in the LDP who supported him in his run for leader, the pursuit of which could become trickier given the electoral gains made by the dovish junior coalition partner Komeito.
The LDP included the unprecedented pledge to double defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP in its party platform, a nod to its haste to acquire weapons to deter China’s military in the disputed East China Sea.
When we think about protecting people’s lives and livelihood, a budget should not come first, Mr. Kishida said.
We need to think about what is really needed for that end. I’d like to proceed with this debate carefully so that I can gain Komeito’s understanding, he added.
A strong deterrence
Mr. Kishida added that Japan needed to consider the capability to strike enemy bases as an option to counter growing defence technology in other nations.
What’s important is making checks constantly if a system is in place to protect people’s lives and livelihood amid a changing international situation and advancing technologies, he said.