Return to more international Japan
This article was previously published in Nikkei.
The LDP presidential election was held on the 29th, and Fumio Kishida was elected as the new president. We asked experts about the points of interest in future foreign policy by Mr. Kishida, who has experience as a foreign minister.
See below the contribution of Senior Research Fellow, Maaike Okano-Heijmans.
What’s your assessment of the results?
To the extent that the election of Fumio Kishida means continuity – in the sense of stability in Japanese politics – this is a welcome outcome for Japan’s partners internationally, even a female Prime Minister or a turn to next-generation politicians would have appealed to many outside Japan.
How will the relationship between Japan and Europe change under the new PM?
Kishida’s interest in foreign affairs, including his language ability and experience in foreign affairs, seems to signal a return to a more international Japan – as under Prime Minister Abe. This will certainly be welcomed by Japan’s partners in Europe, as the EU and EU member states seek to get to meaningful action in the Indo-Pacific. In recent years, a shared interest in upholding the open, rules-based international system and the democratic norms which underpin it has pushed Japan and Europe closer together. Here, continuity will be a good thing.
What do you expect from the new de facto PM?
In Japan’s relations with Europe, the new PM can assist the EU and EU member states with the implementation of the new EU Indo-Pacific strategy, launched on 16 September, The EU and member states have received mixed signals recently about whether their greater engagement is welcomed in the region, illustrated especially by the announcement of the AUKUS – on the same day the EU Indo-Pacific Strategy was launched. At times, Europe may need Japan as a broker in cooperation between partners who share concerns and interests. Relatedly, I expect the new PM to get to action on the EU-Japan Connectivity Partnership that was launched in 2019, when PM Abe visited Brussels – engaging with the EU’s new Global Gateway.
What are the challenges the new PM may face?
In foreign affairs, the new PM needs to balance the more conflictuous approach to China of the United States with that of others, who seek a more nuanced approach. This is clearly an example where continuity would be welcomed by Europe. The PM will really need to catch up on many aspects of Japan’s digitalization domestically, and would do well do take this agenda abroad also. After all, some of the core challenges faced by Japan and like-minded partners are in the increasingly contested digital and cyber domains.