TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will appoint former Defense Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi as foreign minister, Nikkei has learned. The new cabinet is expected to be formed on Wednesday.
Kishida has told party executives in the ruling coalition of his decision.
The move comes after Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party appointed former Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi to the No. 2 post of secretary-general. At the moment, Kishida is doubling as foreign minister.
Besides the top defense post, Hayashi also had served as education minister and agriculture minister. Hayashi, a member of the LDP’s Kishida faction, is also known as a pro-Beijing lawmaker.
A graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Hayashi entered politics as an upper house member in 1995. He was elected to the lower house for the first time in the general election held Oct. 31.
Kishida plans to lean on Japan’s solid alliance with the U.S. in navigating the increasingly volatile security environment in East Asia. Hayashi will face a host of diplomatic challenges from day one, including China’s increased activity near the Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims and calls the Diaoyu, and continued ballistic missile tests by North Korea.
Kishida’s LDP faction is one of the two LDP groups that have traditionally advocated for good relations with China. The faction, formally known as Kochikai, was once led by Masayoshi Ohira, who as a foreign minister under Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka in the 1970s played an instrumental role in Japan’s normalization of diplomatic relations with Beijing.
The other pro-China LDP faction is the one once led by Tanaka, now known as the Takeshita faction.
After Chinese President Xi Jinping’s scheduled state visit to Japan in 2020 was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Hayashi continued to advocate for a face-to-face dialogue.
“When there is an important issue to discuss, meeting in person is very important,” Hayashi said in an interview with Nikkei in October 2020. “The importance of such a meeting only increases.”
Hayashi also serves as chairman of a multipartisan lawmaker group promoting Japan-China friendship.
Given that U.S.-China tensions over security and the economy could become exacerbated, Kishida turned to Hayashi, who has strong personal connections in Washington and Beijing.