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Up-and-coming FM Kono worrying about his “father”

  • December 14, 2017
  • , p. 34
  • JMH Translation

Foreign Minister Taro Kono, 54, is enjoying a burgeoning reputation as a successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.


A source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) says, “When Mr. Kono was appointed as foreign minister, the ministry was filled with trepidation because he had been critical of the ministry. But his reputation drastically changed when he demonstrated a self-assured attitude during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in August. Further, his agility, which his predecessor Fumio Kishida didn’t have, is highly acclaimed.”


Kono’s calendar this month is full of overseas trips. The MOFA source says, “He’ll travel to the U.S., the U.K., and as far as to the Middle East. Mr. Kono has a good command of English as he had studied abroad, so he sometimes has meetings without an interpreter. He also speaks English at the beginning of meetings for media shooting. But correspondents covering the MOFA who are not good at English can’t understand what he says and translating his remarks will result in different news reports. So some correspondents are asking the foreign minister to speak in Japanese at least for media shooting.”


But Kono is not unnecessarily showing off his language skills. The MOFA source says, “The foreign minister speaks through an interpreter when he holds meetings with sensitive countries, such as China and South Korea.”


Kono, who is as vigorous as he can be, has reportedly recently told people around him about the next presidential election of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). “I don’t think it’s a good idea to run for the election because my ‘father’ supports Abe.”  


One political desk editor explains, “‘Father’ doesn’t mean his biological father, Yohei Kono, but Taro Aso, the head of the faction the foreign minister belongs. He is hesitating to run because Mr. Aso is supporting the prime minister.”


The young Kono ran for the LDP presidential election in 2009. But the political desk editor says, “Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who was elected from Kanagawa Prefecture as with Kono, highly praises Kono and has told people close to him that ‘Kono will succeed Abe.’ Aso doesn’t want to make Kono an LDP presidential candidate of the Aso faction even after Abe’s three consecutive election wins because Suga’s clout will strongly remain if Kono is put on the Aso faction’s ticket for the party race.” (Slightly abridged)

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