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Kishida comments on DPRK, COVID-19, economic policy

TV Tokyo aired an interview with Prime Minister Kishida on Monday night that had been taped earlier in the evening during which he touched on North Korea’s escalating missile provocations, the COVID-19 resurgence, and his economic policy. With regard to Pyongyang’s recent missile tests, he said: “It’s not easy to ascertain their true intentions. As North Korea is updating and enhancing its missile technology continually, we need to gauge whether our current missile defense system is sufficient. In order to safeguard people’s lives and property, we mustn’t rule out any option. We have to seriously consider what needs to be done.”

 

On the exponential rise in the coronavirus epidemic curve, Kishida apologized for the delay in the booster rollout. However, he reiterated the administration’s commitment to accelerating the rate of vaccination, building a robust testing regime, and enhancing medical services for patients, including those recuperating at home, by giving them full access to oral medication and hospital beds if necessary. He added that restrictions on outings may become necessary if the strain on healthcare capacities becomes prolonged.

 

Kishida dismissed former Prime Minister Abe’s concerns that his emphasis on a “new form of capitalism” is interpreted by some as meaning that he subscribes to “socialism.” “My approach is definitely based on the market mechanism,” the premier underscored. “However, not everything should be dictated by the market or competition. Under a market economy, the public sector must play a certain role in promoting growth and wealth distribution. I believe that nothing is more important than growth. Without growth, there would be no wealth to distribute in the first place. When it comes to attaching importance to growth, my administration is no different from the Abe administration.”

 

The prime minister explained the administration’s policy of assisting business startups in addressing such global challenges as climate change, national security, and the digital economy, which are viewed by some as vulnerabilities. “Through technological innovation, those weaknesses can be converted into engines for growth,” the premier said. “We will consider financial benefits and tax incentives aimed at giving entrepreneurs access to capital.” He indicated that such support will also be offered to new businesses focusing on telemedicine and autonomous driving, which will be useful in addressing the problems of depopulated rural areas.

 

The premier concluded by saying that while diplomacy and national security issues, such as North Korea, tend to command greater attention, the economy may be more important. “I think I can cooperate with the United States in various ways. International coordination is very important, especially in the economic arena. I think Japan can contribute [to the international community] by taking the lead in discussions on the economic front.”

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