By Watanabe Hiroo
The Biden administration has enthusiastically welcomed the new administration of Kishida Fumio. This is because the U.S. expects to continue cooperation with Japan’s new administration on the common issues of promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific and upholding a rules-based world order, based on the strong Japan-U.S. alliance. In particular, Washington will seek clear involvement from the Kishida administration in dealing with China, which continues to engage in provocative actions in relation to the U.S. ally of Taiwan, and North Korea, which has repeatedly launched new types of missiles recently.
“The U.S.-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and the world,” stressed President Biden in his Oct. 4 statement congratulating Prime Minister Kishida. “The historic cooperation between our two democracies will continue to be a critical asset as we work together to take on the challenges of our time.”
Prime Minister Kishida was the foreign minister during the second and third Abe administrations when the Japan-U.S. alliance deepened the most. Now, as prime minister, Kishida has made it clear that he will continue to pursue “an unshakable security framework based on the Japan-U.S. alliance.”
“Even before the LDP presidential election, diplomatic officials both in Japan and the U.S. were saying, “For the U.S., the most attractive feature of the new Kishida administration [if realized] would be consistency [with past administrations].”
When he was foreign minister, Kishida is said to have built a good relationship with then-Secretary of State John Kerry, who is now the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and Kishida was heavily involved in President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima in 2016.
Given that the security environment surrounding the U.S. and Japan has become increasingly challenging since this summer, “having a leader with a steady hand and potential endurance in Tokyo is good news for the Japan-U.S. alliance,” said Asia-Pacific Security Chair Patrick Cronin at Hudson Institute.
The U.S. government hopes Japan will strengthen its defense capabilities, including acquiring the ability to attack enemy bases. Senior Research Fellow Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation in the U.S. said, “Kishida views securing missile strike capabilities as a viable option against North Korea and China, and this is encouraging (to the U.S.).
During the LDP presidential election campaign, Kishida announced the establishment of a special advisor to the prime minister in charge of human rights issues, with an eye on China. He told a U.S. newspaper that Taiwan is the front line of the confrontation between democratic forces and authoritarianism, which is growing. The U.S. side is taking note of these remarks by Kishida and expects him to take effective action.