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Kishida to upgrade U.S. alliance with focus on ‘free’ Indo-Pacific

TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida emphasized his intention to “strategically promote the realization of a free and open Indo-Pacific” in cooperation with U.S. President Joe Biden, in a video message shown at an event held in Tokyo on Saturday.


The world is facing “many challenges including an increasingly harsh regional security environment, events that threaten universal values such as freedom, democracy and human rights, and global issues such as climate change and the novel coronavirus,” Kishida said at the annual Mount Fuji Dialogue, an event hosted by the Japan Center for Economic Research and the Japan Institute of International Affairs.


Kishida added that the alliance with the U.S. would be a cornerstone of his country’s foreign and security policies to develop “resolute diplomacy.” “I will bring the Japan-U.S. alliance to a higher level,” he said.


Kishida’s new administration, which began earlier this month, includes a newly created ministerial post for economic security — a first in Japan. The minister is expected to submit a bill to promote economic security at an ordinary session of the diet, Japan’s parliament, next year, as economic and supply chain issues are increasingly seen as matters of national security.


The secretary general of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party Akira Amari, who gave a speech after Kishida at the same event on Oct. 23, said that it is important for Japan to reduce risk and become more autonomous in order to enhance its economic security.


“It is necessary to thoroughly check whether the core infrastructure that supports the lives of citizens and the economy has inherent vulnerabilities,” such as for energy and telecommunications, said Amari. He added that even a lack of low-tech products, such as the masks and gloves that have been essential during the pandemic, can cause a country to collapse.


Amari said that another “pillar” of economic security would be to have a technological advantage that would act as economic deterrent. Since Japan is not rich in resources, “we only have research and development,” which the East Asian country needs to utilize as an “economic weapon,” he said.


One key initiative to improve Japan’s technological advantage would be university reforms through a fund of 10 trillion yen, which Amari said would be secured through the supplementary budget after the upcoming parliamentary election to be held on Oct. 31. The fund would be used to strengthen basic research and support doctoral students. “Connecting basic research seamlessly to products, services and social implementation would also be important for economic security,” Amari said.


Amari added that Japan would need to take into account systems such as those for unregistered patents.

Regarding the process of decoupling from China, he said that Japan can work with China in certain areas such as the environment. “Decoupling with China will be partial, but it is necessary to carefully determine how broad that part will be,” Amari said.


He also suggested that he is calling for companies to have a board member in charge of economic security.

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