By Hoshino Norihisa
The Kishida administration will create the post of economic security minister, and former Parliamentary Secretary of Defense Kobayashi Takayuki (46) has been selected to fill it. Kobayashi is a former Finance Ministry official currently serving his third term in the Diet. As the U.S.-China conflict intensifies, economic security involving technology and data breaches has emerged as a central issue for both the public and private sectors in Japan. As the newly elected leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Kishida indicated that he would enact an “Act for Promoting Economic Security” (tentative title).
On a Fuji TV program broadcasted on Oct. 3, Amari Akira, the new LDP secretary-general, explained the new LDP leadership’s decision to establish the post of minister of state for economic security in the Cabinet Office, saying, “Economic security is a cross-ministry matter. Therefore, (the economic security minister) should be able to work with every agency, including the NSS (National Security Secretariat).”
Amari is known to be a strong advocate of economic security. He led the LDP’s Strategic Headquarters on the Creation of a New International Order, launched by Kishida during his days as chair of the Policy Research Council, and formulated the group’s recommendations to the government on the issue. Kobayashi supported Amari as the group’s secretary-general.
During the LDP presidential campaign, Kishida pledged to “secure Japan’s ‘strategic autonomy’ and ‘strategic indispensability.’” Amari explained the statement on the TV program: “’Strategic autonomy’ entails understanding Japan’s weaknesses and then taking supplementary measures, and ‘strategic indispensability’ means having economic specialties that are indispensable to the global economy.”
Amari had in mind semiconductors, which used to be one of Japan’s fortes. Japan has now lost much of the market share to China and Taiwan. Because semiconductors are at the heart of the data breach problem, Amari stressed: “Countries that share alliances, such as Japan, the U.S., and the EU, should become capable of supplying essential parts to each other.”
Ending the COVID-19 crisis continues to be an urgent goal for the new administration. Remembering the criticism Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide faced because of his COVID-19 countermeasures, Kishida expressed his intention to uphold two principles: “giving thorough explanations to the public” and “engaging in crisis management designed to handle the worst-case scenario.”
Main players in the Suga administration’s COVID-19 response efforts were Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Tamura Norihisa, Minister in charge of Economic Revitalization Nishimura Yasutoshi—who coordinated efforts with local municipalities and experts—and Administrative Reform Minister Kono Taro—who oversaw the vaccine rollout. Important decisions, such as declaring states of emergency, were made by the prime minister and related ministers at the Prime Minister’s Office [Kantei].
On the morning of Oct. 3, Amari said he wanted the health minister to serve as the final decision-maker in COVID-19 issues, saying that there were too many “captains” directing the Suga administration’s COVID-19 response. After intra-party coordination, however, the new administration decided to retain the three posts. All eyes are on the new administration’s handling of COVID-19, including Kishida’s role, his administration’s method of disseminating information, as well as the interaction between the government and the party.