Fumio Kishida's era as the new prime minister is set to begin. The power shift will also influence the domestic and foreign policy strategies in Japan.

Fumio Kishida's era as the new prime minister of Japan became apparent after receiving the majority of the votes in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership election on Wednesday.

Earlier, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that he would withdraw from the LDP leadership and would not run in the next election.

In the first round of voting, Kishida narrowly surpassed his main rival, Taro Kono, Minister for Administrative and Regulatory Reform. In the second round, however, he was able to secure the bulk of the votes that granted him the Prime Minister seat.

Kishida, who is also a former foreign minister, will be declared Japan's new prime minister on October 4 at the House of Representatives (Shugiin) session dominated by the LDP and its coalition partner Komeito.

Here are some glimpses of his life that led to his political rise.

Towards a political journey

Kishida, 64, comes from a political family whose grandfather and father were both parliamentarians in the Diet, Japan's bicameral legislature.

He spent three years in New York as a child when his father was appointed to the US as a senior trade ministry official. He attended public school in Queens before returning back to Japan where he graduated from the School of Law of Waseda University in Tokyo.

Kishida briefly pursued a banking career before entering political life as a secretary to his father. Then, he became a member of the House of Representatives in 1993, representing the Hiroshima 1st district. 

In 2008, Kishida was appointed as state minister in charge of consumer affairs and food safety in the former prime minister Yasuo Fukuda's cabinet. 

After the LDP's victory in the 2012 general election, Kishida was declared as foreign minister by Prime minister Shinzo Abe and became the longest-serving person in this position. 

For over five years, he was responsible for Japanese diplomacy including arranging the former US President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in 2016.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama lays a wreath at a cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan
Former U.S. President Barack Obama lays a wreath at a cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan (Toru Hanai / Reuters)

He supported Japan’s policy of remaining out of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, indicating the necessity to rely on the extended nuclear deterrence of Japan’s ally, the US.

Later, he left his post to Kono, his closest rival in the current LDP leadership election, and was appointed as defence minister in 2017 for two months. Then, became the chairperson of the Policy Research Council of the LDP.

Kishida has a reputation of being a moderate liberal in terms of his political stance. 

Domestic policy pledges

Kishida will form his cabinet after swearing-in as prime minister. It is presumed that he will maintain the party's important names such as deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, Abe's younger brother in their seats.

He will likely confront Japan’s criticised Covid-19 vaccination rollout and deal with the post-Covid recovery process. 

Considering economic policy, Kishida vowed to spend tens of trillions of yen to spur the economy, prioritizing lower incomes and improving the tourism industry. 

As for environmental concerns, he pledged to reach Japan to net-zero carbon emissions and decrease high-level radioactive waste by 2050 through functionalizing small modular and nuclear fusion reactors which are said to be cheaper to manufacture and safer to operate than standard reactors. 

For gender matters, he supports amending the law to allow women to keep their family names after marriage. 

Foreign policy projections

As a long-term Japanese foreign minister, Kishida is a well-known name in the foreign diplomacy community. He reportedly built a close relationship with former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who now serves in the Biden administration as a special envoy on climate issues. 

Kishida's attempt will be shaped around strengthening Japan-U.S. relations and developing the “free and open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP), the diplomatic concept introduced by former prime ministers Abe and Suga, according to Daisuke Akimoto, associated Research Fellow of the Institute for Security & Development Policy (ISDP).

With the FOIP strategy, he will likely focus on counterbalancing the Chinese assertiveness and military presence in the East and South China Seas which would be a policy that glorifies good relations with the US. 

Considering Chinese influence over Taiwan and Hong Kong, Kishida stated his concerns regarding the possibility of a major diplomatic problem between Japan and China over the Taiwan Strait and China's pressure on Hong Kong. However, he would seek to appease the bilateral relationship and would strive to balance the Sino-Japanese relations, according to Akitumo. 

As for Russia, Kishida is famous for his close personal relationship with the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. During his foreign ministry period, Kishida once reportedly challenged his counterpart Lavrov in a drinking contest of vodka and sake while continuing their diplomatic consultations.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2n left) shakes hands with the then Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (2nd right) at the start of their Japan-Russia foreign and defense ministers meeting called
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2n left) shakes hands with the then Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (2nd right) at the start of their Japan-Russia foreign and defense ministers meeting called "two-plus two" at Iikura guest house in Tokyo (POOL New / Reuters)

For nuclear armament, Kishida has always shown that he is very sensitive about abolishing nuclear weapons. He constantly promotes Japanese diplomacy for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament within the context of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). 

Previously, he wrote an article for Foreign Affairs saying Tokyo will seek to call on world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to make them observe the realities of the nuclear bombings and cooperate for ''a shared vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.”

In another article, he indicated his intention to host a meeting and gather G7 foreign ministers to Hiroshima for the first time in history to revitalize international momentum in this matter. Indeed, in 2016, a meeting of G7 foreign ministers was held in the city.

Hence, Kishida will likely follow and continue diplomatic missions to achieve his goals for a nuclear-weapon-free world.

Source: TRT World