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Takashi Arimoto

【#1072】Welcoming Foreign Minister Kamikawa and Defense Minister Kihara

Takashi Arimoto / 2023.09.21 (Thu)

September 19, 2023

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s newly reshuffled cabinet has a lineup that lacks freshness due to the selection of many hopefuls on a “waiting list” for cabinet ministers recommended by factions within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. However, Kishida’s selection of Yoko Kamikawa as foreign minister and Minoru Kihara as defense minister can be commendable.

Former Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi had been known as pro-China, having served as chairman of the multipartisan Japan-China Parliamentary Friendship League until shortly before his appointment. The Chinese Embassy in Japan has counted this parliamentary group as one of the seven leading Japanese organizations friendly to China. However, even a pro-China foreign minister cannot effectively deal with today’s China, as evidenced by China's response to the release of treated water from Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the ocean. Without being based on any scientific evidence, China has completely banned seafood imports from Japan. “The removal of the pro-China image created by Hayashi’s presence may be a good thing,” said a Japanese government official.

Promoting the “rule of law”

Kamikawa, the new foreign minister, is known for having signed execution orders for 13 Aum Shinrikyo death-row inmates, including former guru Shoko Asahara (whose real name was Chizuo Matsumoto), when she was the justice minister. "In each case, I stayed alone in the minister's office to read a huge volume of materials and made a careful decision,” she said in an interview with the Sankei Shimbun newspaper. “On the day before executions, I visited the grave of my ancestors. Since the first execution, I have recited sutras at home every morning. I feel that the responsibility of the justice minister is so grave." Her attitude and courage to fulfill her responsibility impressed then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and then Chief Cabinet Secretary (and later Prime Minister) Yoshihide Suga.

Regarding foreign policy, Kamikawa has proactively worked to establish universal values as head of a parliamentary league for promoting the “rule of law” in the international community, based on her experiences as justice minister. There has never been a time when the promotion of the rule of law has been more demanded as Japan confronts autocracies such as China, Russia, and North Korea. I hope Kamikawa will exert her presence in the international community.

Qualified for a Taiwan Strait Crisis

Kihara, the new defense minister, is known as a pro-Taiwan lawmaker, having served as secretary general of the multipartisan Japan-Taiwan Parliamentary Roundtable. He is familiar with national security policy, having worked as a national security adviser to Prime Ministers Abe and Suga and got involved in the last year’s revision of three national security documents including the National Security Strategy as a member of ruling parties’ working-level discussion group. At a Taiwan Strait crisis policy simulation in July, he acted as defense minister. Given a potential Taiwan Strait crisis, there may be no better qualified person than Kihara for defense minister.

Japan must confront national security crises without delay. I hope Foreign Minister Kamikawa and Defense Minister Kihara will be aware of the gravity of their responsibilities and vie fairly and squarely not only with China but also with our ally, the United States.

Takashi Arimoto is a Planning Committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and publisher of Monthly Magazine SEIRON at the Sankei Shimbun newspaper.