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Fuji TV senior commentator praises DM Kishi’s handling of ROK, China at Shangri-La Dialogue

Fuji TV’s senior commentator Hirai Fumio said Defense Minister Kishi “did a good job” at the Asia Security Summit held in Singapore. He explained that when Chinese Defense Minister Wei expressed hope to strengthen bilateral cooperation with Japan at the onset of their bilateral meeting held on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue on June 12, Kishi immediately brought up China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in the East China Sea, the activities of its aircraft carrier Liaoning, and its joint military actions with Russia and called for restraint. Although China apparently rejected Japan’s call for restraint, Hirai said China was probably taken aback by Kishi’s hardline stance and did not make any official announcement on the meeting. Hirai went on to say that it was “really good” that Kishi appeared to have ignored the presence of his South Korean counterpart during the trilateral defense ministers’ meeting between the United States, Japan, and ROK held on June 11. He noted that bilateral defense exchanges between Japan and ROK have been virtually suspended since the incident in which a South Korean destroyer directed its fire-control radar at a MSDF patrol plane, adding that unless the South Korean side offers an apology or an explanation, the two nations will not be able to resume their defense dialogue. In addition, Hirai questioned an Asahi article on June 14 expressing displeasure over Kishi’s “inward looking” stance toward South Korea, saying that considering what happened in the past, not many Japanese blindly believe that the new South Korean government is really hoping to improve its ties with Japan.

 

Noting that Prime Minister Kishida approves of Kishi’s resolute attitude toward China and South Korea, Hirai said public support for the Kishida Cabinet remains high because the premier is gaining more support from liberals than his predecessors Abe and Suga. However, there is concern that Kishida will lose the support of some conservatives in the Upper House election. Hirai said that is why Kishida heeded Abe’s advice on the defense budget, fiscal reform, and Taiwan and amended the big-boned policy. However, he also said that this doesn’t mean Abe is controlling the Kishida government, adding that it is safe to say that Kishida is “utilizing” Abe’s power. He said that for the LDP, losing the support of conservatives would mean losing the election, adding that Kishida would have to step down immediately if that were to happen. Hirai said that since the LDP presidential election, Kishida has done an extremely good job of maintaining balance between liberals and conservatives, stressing that the Kishida-Abe alliance, in which Kishida focuses on the liberals and Abe focuses the conservatives, may be the most powerful one yet. 

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