Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has chosen a female foreign minister and appointed a defence minister who has actively cultivated relations with Taiwan in the latest cabinet lineup announced on Wednesday. There are 5 women in the cabinet – the highest number in the history of Japan, the selections showing a commitment to gender equality.
Kishida is facing declining approval ratings and is nearing the end of his term as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which is set to conclude next year. The new cabinet had the challenge of managing Japan’s relations with China, which deteriorated following Japan’s release of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.
The Japanese PM declared during a news conference that this cabinet is one that embraces change, appointing ministers who are proactive in implementing the three core pillars of economic, social, and diplomatic policies.
The newly appointed foreign minister is Yoko Kamikawa, a former justice minister who oversaw the execution of key members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult responsible for the deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995. Kamikawa, who holds a master’s degree from Harvard University, is seen as a choice aimed at ensuring smooth relations with the United States.
Kishida announced that the new defence minister will be Minoru Kihara, a politician supportive of Taiwan who has previously visited the democratic island and is a member of a Japan-Taiwan interparliamentary group. Security experts think this choice sends a message that Japan is seeking stability in Taiwan alongside the United States. Kihara will also be responsible for overseeing efforts to strengthen Japan’s military, as part of a plan to double defence spending by 2027. This comes at a time of increasing tension in East Asia due to China’s military expansion and maritime disputes.
Despite these ministerial changes, some political observers believe that the role of ministers has diminished in importance, as summits have become the primary platform for dialogue with China on the global stage. Even with the new changes, there won’t be any change or impact on Japan’s diplomatic policy.
This cabinet reshuffle comes amid a drop in Kishida’s popularity, driven by a series of scandals, including data mishaps linked to government identity cards and the arrest of a vice minister on graft suspicions. A recent poll by public broadcaster NHK showed that about 43% of respondents disapproved of Kishida’s leadership, while 36% approved. Kishida, who assumed office two years ago, has retained both his finance and trade ministers, signalling no major shift in economic policies. The new cabinet’s main priorities include crafting a new economic stimulus package to alleviate the financial strain on households caused by rising fuel prices and addressing the ongoing challenges of inflation.