Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is showing his willingness to break through the “difficult problems” left behind by successive governments. Constitutional reform, which is the LDP’s party policy, and the issue of the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea are issues that even the Shinzo Abe administration, the longest in history, has been unable to resolve. Is the “Kishida Vision,” which he claims he will accomplish during his term in office, really on track?
He says, “I will do it myself.
The abduction issue is the most important issue for the Kishida cabinet. The abduction issue is the most important issue for the Kishida cabinet, and I strongly believe that it must be resolved by my hand.
On November 13, Prime Minister Kishida attended a rally calling for a solution to the abduction issue, and said this in front of Sakie Yokota, the mother of abductee Megumi Yokota, who was 13 at the time of her disappearance.
About a month ago, on October 18, a family member of one of the abductees said, “The prime minister has been replaced countless times, but there has been no movement at all. We want to know what you are going to do and by when.
Former Prime Minister Abe, who has long been committed to resolving the abduction issue, has also used the words “the most important issue for the cabinet” and “a solution by myself.
It is interesting to note that Prime Minister Kishida did not appoint Shigeru Kitamura, who served as cabinet intelligence officer and director general of the National Security Bureau, to a key cabinet post. Mr. Kitamura, who was highly regarded as an “intelligence professional” by the Abe and Kan administrations, is well versed in North Korean affairs and is known to have had numerous discussions with his counterparts in China and South Korea. Mr. Abe and others had hoped that Mr. Kitamura would be appointed deputy chief cabinet secretary in the Kishida cabinet, but the prime minister chose Shunichi Kurio, a former commissioner of the National Police Agency.
A reporter from the political section of a national newspaper explains.
The prime minister believes that the abduction problem will not be solved by the conventional methods and that a change in thinking will be necessary to overcome the problem. Mr. Kurio’s main field is organized crime and criminal law, and he was not appointed with the expectation that he would be able to move like Mr. Kitamura. In other words, he is ‘planning to do diplomacy on his own. This is probably the reason why he chose Yoshimasa Hayashi, the number two man in the Kishida faction, to be foreign minister, as he is easier to communicate with.
Prime Minister Kishida has said that it is extremely important to build a relationship between the top leaders of the two countries, and he is aiming for the early realization of a Japan-North Korea summit with Kim Jong-un. He plans to visit the U.S. in the near future and convey his intentions to U.S. President Biden during their talks.
However, there are some concerns within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One of the concerns is whether this will be a repeat of the 2014 Stockholm Agreement.
During the Abe administration, North Korea promised to set up a “special investigation committee” to conduct a full investigation into the disappearance of the Japanese. However, it announced the suspension of the investigation without making any progress. In the meantime, North Korea has continued to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and some government officials say that the investigation was merely used to buy time to fend off harsh international public opinion.
With North Korea insisting that the abduction issue has already been resolved, there are endless concerns that a surprise visit to North Korea by the prime minister would only give North Korea more time. One senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan said, “We must avoid an agreement in which the prime minister bites on stories from North Korea, such as ‘specified disappearances have been found,’ and the issue is not resolved.
In his book, “Kishida Vision: From Division to Cooperation,” published by Kodansha, the prime minister expresses his strong desire to revise the constitution during his three-year term as president of the Liberal Democratic Party, saying, “I think the time has come to ask for the people’s judgment. The results of the last general election have been encouraging. As a result of the last general election, the constitutional revision forces in the House of Representatives have the largest number of seats in history, exceeding the two-thirds majority required for the Diet to initiate a constitutional amendment, and expectations are high that “there is no reason not to do it now” (LDP mid-level leader).
At a press conference on November 1, Prime Minister Kishida said, “We will work vigorously toward constitutional reform, which is the party policy,” and renamed the LDP’s Headquarters for the Promotion of Constitutional Reform as the “Headquarters for Realization,” hoping to move forward with discussions on constitutional reform at the Constitutional Council of the Lower House. However, there are those in the administration who believe that it will be difficult to promote constitutional reform until the LDP wins the Upper House election next summer and achieves full-fledged stability. I really don’t want to touch major issues such as the consumption tax while I’m in office.
Hirofumi Yoshimura, vice president of the Japan Restoration Association, which made a breakthrough in the general election, put pressure on Kishida, saying, “The party’s motto calls for constitutional revision and revision, but it’s probably a ‘do-it-yourself scam,'” while Ichiro Matsui, president of the Japan Restoration Association, suggested that the upper house election next summer and a referendum on constitutional revision should be held on the same day. However, most observers believe that if, as Kishida hopes, the Constitutional Review Commission, which in principle must be unanimous, is the main battleground, there will be no progress due to the cautious stance of some opposition parties.
In an interview with the Cabinet Press Club on November 19, the prime minister explained that he was not concerned about revising the LDP’s four-point constitutional amendment plan, including specifying the grounds for the Self-Defense Forces. This is seen as a “change of pace” in consideration of the New Komeito Party, which is cautious about the LDP’s proposal, but there is some opposition from conservative voters who have supported the LDP.
Some conservatives who have supported the Liberal Democratic Party are opposed to the proposal, saying, “I think the prime minister is trying to end up with a ‘make-believe’ constitutional revision that only specifies the Self-Defense Forces. This will certainly leave a mark on history, but it will also mean that the efforts of successive LDP presidents will have been largely wasted.
How will Mr. Kishida, who has called for a shift from division to cooperation, strike the right balance? How will Mr. Kishida, who is pushing for cooperation rather than division, strike a balance? If the LDP fails to push for constitutional reform in next summer’s upper house elections, he must not be unaware of the growing concern within the party that this could lead to another breakthrough by the Restoration Party, a constitutional reform force.
Reporting and writing： Kenichi Ogura
Director, ITOMOS Research Institute