Kishida makes his international debut, while facing challenges at home

As Thursday marked a month since he took office, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s international debut was behind him, but a raft of domestic issues lay ahead.

Kishida produced some results on his diplomatic debut in Scotland, analysts said.

During the whirlwind trip to Glasgow, the prime minster on Tuesday pledged Japan’s additional financial aid for developing nations’ fight against global warming, in a speech at a leaders meeting held as part of the 26th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP26.

In the Scottish city, Kishida also held meetings with U.S. President Joe Biden and other foreign leaders.

The prime minister, who returned home Wednesday, is now poised to work on issues including the compilation of a fiscal 2021 supplementary state budget for financing large-scale economy-boosting measures.

Kishida became prime minister Oct. 4 and launched his Cabinet the same day.

“I could demonstrate our country’s initiative for decarbonization to Asia and the rest of the world,” Kishida told reporters early Wednesday, after ending the series of diplomatic events in Glasgow.

Having served as foreign minister for four years and eight months, Kishida has a solid background in diplomacy.

In the speech at the COP26 World Leaders Summit, he said Japan will provide up to $10 billion in fresh aid over the next five years to help decarbonization in developing countries in Asia.

In addition, Kishida met with leaders of Britain, Australia and Vietnam, as well as Biden. Kishida and the foreign leaders reconfirmed their countries’ intentions to work for ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific region, apparently keeping China in mind.

At their first, brief face-to-face meeting, Kishida and Biden agreed to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.

They also confirmed that Kishida will visit the United States at an early date. The two countries are expected to start arranging a possible U.S. trip within this year by the Japanese leader.

Meanwhile, Climate Action Network, or CAN, an international nongovernmental organization, at COP26 gave Japan the Fossil of the Day award, granted to a country which the group believes is not enthusiastic about taking measures against global warming.

CAN gave the award to Japan apparently because Kishida did not say in the speech at the COP26 summit that Japan will end coal-fired thermal power generation, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

At home, Kishida is expected to launch his new administration next Wednesday, following his ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s victory in Sunday’s election for the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of the Diet, Japan’s parliament.

He will also speed up work on selecting the successor to Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who is set to become secretary-general of the LDP. The personnel change comes as current LDP Secretary-General Akira Amari lost his constituency seat in the Lower House poll and was barely elected to the chamber under the proportional representation system.

It was announced Thursday that Kishida himself will take on the role of foreign minister in the interim.

A pillar in the upcoming economic package will be a plan to grant cash benefits to people who have been hit hard by the novel coronavirus crisis.

The LDP and its coalition partner, Komeito, are set to launch talks on the amount of the aid and the scope of recipients. But the talks may not go smoothly, informed sources said.

Kishida will also set up a panel for raising wages of caregivers and nursery workers.

All eyes will be on whether the prime minister can realize a virtuous cycle of growth and redistribution, a key policy he promised during his campaigning for the general election.

A senior LDP official called for swift action, saying, “Prices are going up due to rising crude oil prices and the yen’s depreciation.”

The next major political event for Kishida will be next summer’s election for the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Diet.

Kishida plans to make all-out efforts to put into action policy promises he made during the Lower House election campaigning and the LDP leadership race in September.

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