Monday, May 27, 2024

The Fruit of the April By-elections

 Not Good News for Kishida


By Takuya Nishimura, Senior Fellow, Former Editorial Writer for The Hokkaido Shimbun
The views expressed by the author are his own and are not associated with The Hokkaido Shimbun
You can find his blog, J Update here.
May 19, 2024. Special to Asia Policy Point

 
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is now reaping the bitter fruit of the LDP’s defeats in the three recent by-elections. The Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) coalition partner, Komeito, has refused to co-sponsor amendments to the Political Funds Control Act (PFCA). Kishida had announced that the amendments would be approved by the end of current Diet session. Some LDP leaders are skeptical of Kishida’s handling of the matter.

Although LDP and Komeito reached a rough agreement several weeks ago over revisions to the PFCA, they did not agree on two points: lowering the threshold for disclosing the identities of purchasers of fundraising party tickets and disclosing details about “policy activity funds.”

The LDP has proposed that the threshold for the disclosure of identities be 100,000 yen, but Komeito has insisted on 50,000 yen. The LDP also has proposed only modest changes to rules governing policy activity funds: parties would have to report only the sum of expenditures for each program, such as party events, elections, public relations, and research. This disclosure would be triggered only when a party transfers more than 500,000 yen to a lawmaker. Komeito would not agree to such minor reforms. 

Is the difference between 100,000 yen and 50,000 yen so large? Not really – but the difference can be crucial for the LDP and some lawmakers who have not found their footing in the coming election. The LDP would prefer to support vulnerable lawmakers than to support Kishida.

Komeito sees only a downside to supporting the LDP proposals. In the by-election in Shimane 1 district, Komeito supported an LDP candidate who lost by a wide margin to the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP) candidate. The lesson that Komeito took was that a coalition with the LDP would work against them in future elections. Komeito might also have realized that any compromise on revisions to the PFCA would send a wrong message to the voters.

Kishida has been promising to restore public confidence in politics by restructuring the system of political fundraising and expenditures, including the addition to the PFCA of stricter rules on political funds. But when he approved the LDP’s draft of reforms, he did not take Komeito’s frustration into account. “It became an effective draft not to repeat the same scandal, and I will make it for restoring confidence for politics,” said Kishida as the LDP unilaterally submitted the draft to the Diet.

Komeito did not submit its own draft to avoid jeopardizing its relationship with the LDP. It is still possible that the LDP and Komeito will reach a deal as negotiations in the Diet continue. The CDP submitted its own draft co-sponsored with the Democratic Party for the People. The CDP draft includes complete abolition of the policy activity fund.

The polls in May showed the fundamental unpopularity of the Kishida administration. The approval rating for the Kishida Cabinet was 24%, two points down from April in the poll of Asahi Shimbun. The Yomiuri poll showed a 26% approval rating, up one point from April. In the poll of Mainichi Shimbunthe CDP overtook the LDP with 20% favoring the CDP and 17% the LDP. Kishida’s weak leadership in the negotiations over PFCA has solidified the unpopularity of his administration.

Kishida now is isolated not only from the LDP’s coalition partner but also from members of his own party. Former Minister for Digital Affairs, Takuya Hirai, has questioned Kishida’s leadership. “The LDP dug its own grave making the issue complicated by dissolving factions or imposing penalties on the lawmakers,” said Hirai. Kishida made the decisions on factions and penalties.

One of the lawmakers in the Abe faction who was penalized for his involvement in the slush fund scandal, Hakubun Shimomura, demanded that Kishida conduct another interview of a former prime minister, Yoshiro Mori, in order to reassess Mori’s role. Kishida had told the Diet that he had confirmed that Mori had no involvement. However, in a magazine article, Mori said that Kishida had not asked him about it.  Shimomura asked for a further investigation of Mori, citing Kishida’s responsibility as the president of LDP.

Kishida seems to be losing grip in the LDP. Kishida punished LDP lawmakers who were involved in the slush fund scandal. The former Chair of the LDP Policy Research Council, Koichi Hagiuda, was suspended from any leadership position for a year. However, Hagiuda was allowed to retain his position as president of the LDP Tokyo branch where he is expected to manage the campaign leading to the gubernatorial election in July. Although the LDP generally distinguishes local leaders from national leaders, Hagiuda’s position in Tokyo, notwithstanding his suspension at the national level, reflects something of a double standard.

Gaffes by LDP leaders have compounded the trouble facing the Kishida administration. The chairperson of the LDP Political Reform Council, Keisuke Suzuki, said that political reform was partly a political maneuver to weaken the LDP. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Yoko Kamikawa, was forced to retract her remarks in the Shizuoka gubernatorial campaign. Meeting with women voters, Kamikawa asked rhetorically, “What is a woman who would not give birth to” the candidate. Media reports suggested that Kamikawa regarded woman as the sex that gives birth but not one that has a choice in the matter.

Many are wondering who would replace Kishida. Former Chief Cabinet Secretary, Katsunobu Kato, indicated the possibility of his running for LDP president, if he were asked to do so. Shigeru Ishiba, who has received the highest polling numbers as a potential replacement, was reportedly asked to run, in a meeting with former Premier Junichiro Koizumi and his colleagues. Kishida’s own prospects for re-election this fall continue to dim.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Incomplete Deal over Political Reform in Japan

Promises to keep

By Takuya Nishimura, Senior Fellow, Former Editorial Writer for The Hokkaido Shimbun
The views expressed by the author are his own and are not associated with The Hokkaido Shimbun
You can find his blog, J Update here.
May 12, 2024. Special to Asia Policy Point


Facing public criticism over the slush fund scandal, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner, Komeito, on May 9 reached a rough agreement on reforming regulations governing political funds.

Although they agreed on new rules for greater transparency, both parties failed to agree on specific measures that are essential for the restoration of public confidence in politics. The limited reforms are unlikely to encourage voters to hold a better view of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s leadership skills or to increase their support of him. Thus, it seems likely that the LDP and Komeito will continue their discussions to bridge the gaps.

The two parties basically agreed to hold each lawmaker more accountable for the management of political funds. A new rule would require a lawmaker to submit a “certification” of his political funds report. If an accounting manager failed to account for funds properly and was found guilty in a court, and meanwhile the certification was found incorrect, the lawmaker could lose his Diet membership.

LDP and Komeito also agreed to lower the threshold for disclosing the identities of purchasers of fundraising party tickets and the value of the tickets—but they did not agree on a new threshold. Currently, a political organization must report the name of any contributor who purchases tickets worth 200,000 yen or more.

A new, lower yen threshold for tickets is also in limbo. Komeito has argued for a 50,000 yen minimum, the same amount that triggers disclosure of donations to a political organization. The LDP has insisted on a threshold of 100,000 yen out of a concern that disclosure of the identities of purchasers will affect their businesses and in turn discourage ticket purchases.

“Policy activity fund” is another point left unresolved. Each party receives an appropriation from the government that the party places in its policy activity fund.    Each party then allocates funds to individual lawmakers. Lawmakers are supposed to spend the funds on election campaigns, but, by virtue of an exception in the Political Funds Control Act, a party is not required to report how the transferred funds are spent.  Both parties agreed that the expenditures should be made public.

The manner of disclosure, however, remains in dispute. Komeito has proposed that each party submit a list of specific expenditures and their purpose. The LDP will agree only to the disclosure of categories of expenditures and not specific amounts or their purpose. The LDP argues that its approach protects “freedom of political activity.”  But the fund is a government appropriation – that is, it is funded by taxpayers. A party can hardly be responsible to the taxpayers unless it makes details of the fund public.

There have been reports that some LDP leaders have transferred funds to an “unregistered political organization,” which is mostly free from disclosure regulations.  In response, the LDP-Komeito agreement includes a new rule for the disclosure of transfers annually of ¥10 million or more to these unregistered organizations.

The agreement does not address political donations by companies and organizations. Although Komeito is willing to discuss this issue, the LDP firmly opposes any reforms that would change current arrangements. The opposition parties, including the Japan Innovation Party (Nippon Ishin-no-kai), call for a complete prohibition on these donations.

The Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP) demands a ban on any fundraising parties and the termination of the policy activity fund. To these ends, the CDP, together with the Democratic Party for the People, is preparing a bill to amend the Political Funds Control Act. As debate in both Houses continues, the unwillingness of the LDP-Komeito coalition to engage in political reform is becoming obvious.

The failure of the LDP and Komeito to reach agreement on a full range of political reforms can only be attributed to Kishida’s lack of leadership.

Kishida needed an agreement with Komeito on thorough political reform, especially after the bitter defeat in three by-elections in April. After returning from trips to France and South America, Kishida urged LDP leaders to accelerate the discussion with Komeito. However, the negotiations resulted in consensus only on modest reforms. Afraid that negative public reaction will imperil their chances in the coming election, some LDP lawmakers criticized the agreement for failing to demonstrate a commitment to political reform.

For his part, Kishida expressed satisfaction. “The parties wrapped up the measures for not repeating the same scandal,” Kishida told reporters. This response made him look like he is driving a car on automatic cruise control.

Moreover, his credibility is in doubt. A monthly magazine, Bungei Shunju, included an interview with a former head of the Abe faction, Yoshiro Mori. In Diet debates earlier this year, Kishida said he had asked Mori about the kickback system in the Abe faction. In his interview, Mori said that Kishida had never asked him that question. Kishida insisted that he could not confirm Mori’s involvement in the scandal.

Kishida’s inability to explain the entire scandal is at the core of the public’s frustration. In the first trial of the lawmakers and accounting managers of the LDP for failure to report surplus payments, Jun-ichiro Matsumoto, the former accounting manager of the Abe faction, did not say how or why the LDP’s leaders continued to discuss the kickback system. It is thus not the court, but political leaders who are responsible for investigating how the secret fund was controlled.

Monday Asia Events May 20, 2024

CAPTURING THE POWER OF PRODUCTIVITY THROUGH TECH INVESTMENT. 5/20
, 10:30am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: McKinsey Global Institute. Speakers: Olivia White, Senior Partner, Director, McKinsey Global Institute; Rodney Zemmel, Senior Partner, Global Leader, McKinsey Digital.

SOUTHERN ASIA’S SECURITY LANDSCAPE: VIEWS FROM RISING ANALYSTS. 5/23, 10:30-11:45am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Stimson. Speakers: Anuttama Banerji, Researcher at the National Maritime Foundation; Haleema Saadia, Lecturer at the National University of Modern Languages (NUML), Research Fellow at the ROADS Initiative; Dr. Muhammad Shareh Qazi, Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of the Punjab Lahore; Ladhu R. Choudhary, Assistant Professor (Senior Scale) of Political Science at the Department of Political Science, University of Rajasthan.

INDIA’S PATH TO PROSPERITY: BOOK TALK WITH RAGHURAM RAJAN ON ‘BREAKING THE MOLD’. 5/20, 10:30am-Noon (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Brookings Institute. Speakers: Coauthor Raghuram Rajan, Katherine Dusak Miller Distinguished Service Professor of Finance, University of Chicago; Eswar Prasad, Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development.

STRATEGIC SYNERGIES: INDIA-US TECHNOLOGY COOPERATION. 5/20, 11:00am-12:30pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Hudson Institute. Speakers: Rudra Chaudhuri, Director, Carnegie India; Konark Bhandari, Fellow, Carnegie India; Daniel Markey, Senior Advisor, South Asia Programs, United States Institute of Peace; Vikram Singh, United States India Strategic Partnership Forum; Lisa Curtis, Senior Fellow, Center for New American Security.

SOUTH KOREA’S INDO-PACIFIC STRATEGY - A DIPLOMATIC LAME DUCK? 5/20, 6:00pm (JST), 5:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Yokosuka Council on Asia Pacific Studies (YCAPS). Speaker: Dr. Jeffrey Robertson, Associate Professor of Diplomatic Studies, Yonsei University, Non-Resident Fellow, Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI).

US POLICY ON IRAN: EXAMINING THE OPPORTUNITIES TO BUILD A NEW BIPARTISAN STRATEGY. 5/20, Noon-1:00pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Middle East Institute. Speakers: Brian Katulis, Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy, Middle East Institute; Goli Ameri, Vice Chair, Freedom House Board of Trustees; Alex Vatanka, Director of Iran Program, Middle East Institute.

UNRWA’S ROLE IN GAZA AND THE MIDDLE EAST. 5/20, Noon-1:30pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Stimson. Speakers: William R. Deere, Director, Washington Office of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees; Merissa Khurma, Director, Middle East Program, Wilson Center; Andrew Hyde, Director, Senior Fellow Multilateral Financial Diplomacy, Powering Peace, Stimson Center.

POWERING UP: LOCALLY-LED APPROACHES FOR ADVANCING WOMEN'S LEADERSHIP AND GENDER EQUALITY IN ASIA. 5/20, 1:30-2:30pm (EDT), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: Asia Foundation. Speakers: Inthana Bouphasavanh, Director, Association of Development of Women and Legal Education, Laos; Udeni Thewarapperuma, Program Manager, Women’s Voice and Leadership, The Asia Foundation Sri Lanka; Rahpriyanto Alam Surya Putra, Director of Environmental Governance, The Asia Foundation Indonesia; Sumina Karki, Inclusive Governance Lead, The Asia Foundation Nepal.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE ASSESSING THE RISKS AND IDENTIFYING MITIGATION STRATEGIES. 5/20, 2:30pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Rand Corporation. Speakers: Andrew Lauland, Senior International Defense Researcher; Professor of Policy Analysis, Pardee RAND Graduate School; Michelle E. Miro, Information Scientist, Professor of Policy Analysis, Pardee RAND Graduate School; Susan A. Resetar, Senior Operations Researcher; Rahim Ali, Senior Technical Analyst.

TO RUN THE WORLD: THE KREMLIN'S COLD WAR BID FOR GLOBAL POWER. 5/20, 4:00-5:30pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Wilson Center. Speakers: author Sergey Radchenko, Fellow, Wilson E. Schmidt Distinguished Professor, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; Svetlana Savranskaya, Member, History and Public Policy Program Advisory Board, Director of Russia Programs, National Security Archive; William Taubman, Former Fellow; Bertrand Snell Professor of Political Science Emeritus, Amherst College.

OUTCOMES AND IMPLICATIONS OF THE 2024 SOLOMON ISLANDS ELECTION. 5/20, 4:00-5:00pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Kathryn Paik, Senior Fellow, Australia Chair; Alan Tidwell, Professor of Practice and Director of the Center for Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies, Georgetown University; Anouk Ride, Research Fellow, Australian National University; Anna Powles, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Defense and Security Studies, University of New Zealand; Tarcisius Kabutaulaka, Associate Professor, Department of Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Monday Asia Events May 13, 2024

THE WAY AHEAD TO SECURE TAIWAN’S RESILIENCE. 5/13, 10:00-11:00am (EDT), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: Wilson Center. Speakers: Alexander Tah-Ray Yui, Representative, Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United State; Ambassador John D. Negroponte, Former Deputy Secretary of State; Elbridge Colby, Co-Founder, The Marathon Initiative and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development; Carolyn Bartholomew, Former Chairman, US-China Economic and Security Review Commission; Robert Daly, Director, Kissinger Institute on China and the United States.

STRENGTHENING NATO'S EUROPEAN PILLAR. 5/13, 10:00-11:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Max Bergmann, Director of the CSIS Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program and Stuart Center; Sophia Besch, Fellow in the Europe Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Mathieu Droin, CSIS Visiting Fellow; Sean Monaghan, CSIS Visiting Fellow.

THE INSIDERS’ GAME: HOW ELITES MAKE WAR AND PEACE. 5/13, 10:30 - 11:30am (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Brookings Institution. Speakers: E.J. Dionne Jr., W. Averell Harriman Chair, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, Brookings; Michael E. O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow and Director of Research, Foreign Policy, Brookings; Elizabeth N. Saunders, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Brookings; Kori Schake, Senior Fellow and Director, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, AEI.

CAN SOUTH KOREA SAVE UKRAINE? 5/13, 11:00-11:45am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Korea Chair, CSIS. Speakers:  Mark F. Cancian, Senior Adviser, International Security Program; Chris H. Park, Program Coordinator and Research Assistant, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy.

TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME IN SOUTHEAST ASIA. 5/13, 1:00-2:30pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: United States Institute of Peace. Speakers: Erin West, Deputy District Attorney, REACT Task Force, Office of the District Attorney, Santa Clara County; Jacob Sims, Visiting Expert, United States Institute of Peace; Jason Tower, Country Director, Burma, United States Institute of Peace.

STRENGTHENING THE MIDDLEGROUND OF THE DEFENSE-INDUSTRIAL LANDSCAPE. 5/13, 3:30-5:00pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speakers: The Hon. William J. Lynn III, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Leonardo DRS, Former United States Deputy Secretary of Defense, US Department of Defense; The Hon. Ellen Lord, Former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, US Department of Defense, Former President and Chief Executive Officer, Textron Systems Corporation.

The Weak Yen Problem

No easy solution

By Takuya Nishimura
, Senior Fellow, Former Editorial Writer for The Hokkaido Shimbun
The views expressed by the author are his own and are not associated with The Hokkaido Shimbun
You can find his blog, J Update here.
May 6, 2024. Special to Asia Policy Point

The yen-to-dollar exchange rate has moved in unusual ways over the past week. The foreign exchange market’s expectation that the gap between the low interest rate in Japan and the higher interest rate in the United States will not narrow soon has caused the yen to depreciate. Frustrated with this development, the Bank of Japan apparently has intervened at least twice in the FX market, once on April 29 and again on May 2, to increase the yen’s value against the US dollar. Yet so long as inflation persists in the US economy as it has done over the past few years, the weakness in the yen cannot be remedied, unless the BOJ plans to increase the inflation rate, which would complicate monetary policy.

The yen began its recent journey through the foreign exchange markets on April 26. At a press conference that day, the governor of the Bank of Japan, Kazuo Ueda, said that “Depreciation of yen has had no major influence on underlying inflation so far.” He insisted that monetary policy would not attempt to address foreign exchange rates. He also did not indicate when the Bank would start reducing its purchase of Japanese government bonds.

The market interpreted Ueda’s comments as a sign that the BOJ would not raise interest rates for the time being. That being so, the market believed that the wide interest rate gap between Japan and the U.S. would continue for some time. Money is generally supposed to flow to a currency with a higher interest rate. After the BOJ’s monetary policy meeting, at which the interest rate was left unchanged, the yen was sold, and the dollar was bought. At mid-day on April 29, the foreign exchange rate reached 160 yen against U.S. dollar for the first time since 1990.

A curious trend then began within the hour. The rate rose to 155 yen against dollar, dipped to 157 yen to the dollar, and then settled at 154 yen. These abrupt ups and downs invited speculation that the government of Japan had intervened in the foreign exchange market – unannounced. The Vice Minister of Finance for International Affairs, Masato Kanda, refused to comment. However, looking at the BOJ’s account balance, news organizations reported that the BOJ was likely to have intervened at the request of Ministry of Finance. The BOJ’s estimated current account balance dropped 7.56 trillion yen between April 29 and 30. When this balance drops, foreign exchange firms will experience offsetting increases. However, between April 29 and 30, the firms’ balances increased between 2.05 and 2.3 trillion yen.

The 5 trillion yen gap between the BOJ and the firms is thought to be the amount of the BOJ’s intervention on April 29. This amount approached the BOJ’s largest single-day intervention of 5.6 trillion yen in October 2022.

But the unusual moves in the foreign exchange market did not stop there. After the likely intervention on April 29, the yen still exhibited gradual weakness. Just after the Federal Open Market Committee of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board announced, on the afternoon of May 1 (U.S. Eastern Daylight Time) and the early morning of May 2 in Japan time, that it would leave the target range for the federal funds rate unchanged, the yen suddenly rose from 157 yen against dollar to 153 yen. The consensus view is that the BOJ had intervened again to the tune of 3 trillion yen.

The market was surprised at the second intervention because the yen seemed to be appreciating. The U.S. announcement of no change to the federal funds rate had stimulated purchases of yen. The market previously expected BOJ to intervene when the exchange rate reaches 160 yen to the dollar. The second possible intervention on May 2 occurred before the rate had reached that level, thus clouding expectations of when the BOJ would defend the yen. The exchange rate rose further to 151 yen to the dollar on May 3, after the U.S. jobs report showed a slowdown in hiring. The U.S. Labor Department announced an increase in payrolls of approximately 175,000, well below predictions of approximately 243,000.

The BOJ appears to have intervened in the foreign exchange market because the negative impact of the weak yen on the Japanese economy cannot be ignored. “If excessive fluctuation occurred by speculations, it poses negative impact on people’s life. We firmly deal with it,” said Kanda when asked about the first intervention on April 29.

A weak yen causes the prices of imported goods to rise and exerts downward pressure on real wages. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has focused on returning the fruits of economic growth to the people, expecting that wages would rise faster than prices. He has also planned a tax cut for June. A depreciating yen may erode the effect of the economic policies of the Kishida administration, which is suffering from historically low approval ratings. Intervention in the foreign exchange market is unavoidable for the administration.

However, the effect of any intervention will be limited. The weak yen is the result not just of the interest rate gap between Japan and the U.S., but also of the relative strength of the two economies. Inflationary pressure is still strong in the United States. Wages are growing at a relatively high rate, encouraging consumption that leads to inflation. The Chair of the Fed, Jerome Powell, said in his press conference on May 1 that the members of the FOMC “do not expect it will be appropriate to reduce the target range for the federal funds rate until we have gained greater confidence that inflation is moving sustainably toward 2 percent.” Alternatively, the members “are also prepared to respond to an unexpected weakening in the labor market,” he said.

The Fed has shown no sign of another increase in the target rate, but U.S. wages are still increasing. The BOJ’s intervention in the foreign exchange market has no realistic chance of narrowing the interest rate gap with the United States.

Intervention is not a popular tool for adjusting foreign exchange in the international economy. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that currency interventions should occur only in “very rare and exceptional circumstances,” when markets are disorderly with excessive volatility. Whether the interventions will help the Kishida administration to survive the aftermath of the slush fund scandal is uncertain.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Monday Asia Events May 6, 2024

STRENGTHENING TRUST WITH INDIA: IMPLICATIONS OF THE 2008 US-INDIA CIVIL NUCLEAR AGREEMENT. 5/6, 9:30-10:45pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Hoover Institution. Speakers: Condoleezza Rice, Tad and Dianne Taube Director, Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow, Public Policy, 66th US Secretary of State (2005-2009); David Mulford, Distinguished Visiting Fellow, US Ambassador to India (2004-2009); M. K. Narayanan, National Security Advisor of India (2005-2010); Nick Burns, US Ambassador to China, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (2005-2009); Eric Garcetti, US Ambassador to India.

WHAT LIES IN STORE FOR THE UN IN 2024. 5/6, 10:00-11:00am (EDT), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: National Press Club. Speaker: Dennis Francis, President of the United Nations General Assembly. [Press Club members only, broadcast on C-Span and via the Press Club]

INSIDE CHINA’S NEW DIPLOMATIC PUSH. 5/6, 11:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Foreign Policy. Speakers: Evan Medeiros, Chair of Asian studies, Georgetown University; Ravi Agrawal, Editor in chief, Foreign Policy.

BEYOND THE SCIF: A CONVERSATION WITH REP. BRAD WENSTRUP (R-OH) ON AI AND BIOSECURITY. 5/6, 11:00am-12:15pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: American Enterprise Institute. Speakers: Dan Blumenthal, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute; Anna Puglisi, Founder, Puglisi Ventures; Anthony Ruggiero, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Ken Staley, Senior Counselor, Palantir; Dov S. Zakheim, Commissioner, National Security Commission on Emerging Biotechnology. 

UNCERTAIN BOUNDARIES: NORTHEAST ASIA’S POSTWAR SETTLEMENT AND THE NORTHERN TERRITORIES. 5/6, Noon-1:00pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Weatherhead Center for International Relations, Harvard University. Speaker: Sheila Smith, John E. Merow Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific Studies, Council on Foreign Relations.

12 QUESTIONS FOR JONAS RÜEGG: JAPAN AND OCEANIC HISTORY. 5/6, Noon-1:30pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Modern Japan History Association. Speaker: Jonas Rüegg, Senior Teaching and Research Assistant, University of Zurich, and Winner of the 2024 Modern Japan History Association Dissertation Prize.

THE CONSOLIDATION OF DIGITAL AUTHORITARIANISM AND LOOMING THREAT OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. 5/6, 1:30-3:00pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Freedom House. Speakers: Svenja Hahn, Member of the European Parliament, Renew Europe Group; Julien Nocetti, Associate Fellow in the Russia / Eurasia and the Geopolitics of Technologies Centers, French Institute of International Relations (Ifri); Adrian Shahbaz, Vice President of Research and Analysis, Freedom House.

LAUNCH OF CHINESE HANDCUFFS: HOW CHINA HIJACKED THE ENVIRONMENTAL AGENDA. 5/6, 2:00-3:00pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Heritage Foundation. Speakers: Landon Derentz, Senior Director, Richard L. Morningstar Chair for Global Energy Security, Atlantic Council; Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Director, Center for Energy, Climate, and Environment; Erin Walsh, Senior Research Fellow for International Affairs.

HANOI’S PROMISES: VIETNAM’S REALITY AND ACTIONS TO ADDRESS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS. 5/6, 3:00-5:00pm (CET), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: Freedom House. Speaker: Margaux Ewen, Director of the Political Prisoners Initiative.

MADE IN CHINA: WHEN US-CHINA INTERESTS CONVERGED TO TRANSFORM GLOBAL TRADE. 5/6, 4:00-5:30pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: History and Public Program and Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, Wilson Center. Speakers: author Elizabeth O’Brien Ingleson, Assistant Professor in the International History Department, London School of Economics and Political Science; Margaret M. Pearson, Dr. Horace E. and Wilma V. Harrison Distinguished Professor, and Distinguished Scholar, Teacher, Department of Government and Politics, University of Maryland, College Park. PURCHASE BOOK: https://amzn.to/49KzqCE 

JAPAN’S FOREIGN POLICY AND GLOBAL POSITIONING: CHOICES, CHALLENGES, AND RISKS. 5/6, 7:00-8:15pm (EDT); 5/7, 8:00-9:15am (JST), HYBRID. Sponsor Asia Society. Speaker: Gideon Rachman, Chief Foreign Affairs Commentator, The Financial Times.

CHANGING CURRENTS: INNOVATION AND TRANSFORMATION FOR THE ASIA PACIFIC. 5/6,
9:00pm-1:00am (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Center for Asia-Pacific Resilience and Innovation. Speakers: Michael Wills, Executive Vice President, National Bureau of Asian Research; Yul Sohn, President, East Asia Institute; Gulshan Sachdeva, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University; Syaru Shirley Lin, Chair, CAPRIWei Shyy, Former President, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; Bor-Sung Liang, Senior Director, Corporate Strategy & Strategic Technology, MediaTekJarret Su, Co-Head of Healthcare & Life Science, KPMG in Taiwan; Vita Chien, General Manager, AstraZeneca Taiwan; Sunjoy Joshi, Chairman, Observer Research Foundation; Grace Liu, Corporate Sustainability Officer, Acer; Nelson Chang, Chairman, Taiwan Cement; Shuhei Nomura, Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management, Keio University School of Medicine; Steven Pan, Chairman, Silks Hotel Group;
Kristoffer Berse, Dean, National College of Public Administration and Governance, University of the Philippines Diliman; Joe Huang, Director of Lean Planning for Volunteer Development, Buddhist Tzu Chi Charity Foundation.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Voters Strike a Blow Against the Kishida Administration

But not a knock out punch


By Takuya Nishimura,
Senior Fellow, Former Editorial Writer for The Hokkaido Shimbun
The views expressed by the author are his own and are not associated with The Hokkaido Shimbun
You can find his blog, J Update here.
April 29, 2024. Special to Asia Policy Point

On Sunday, April 28, voters firmly rejected the Kishida administration and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). In three by-elections of the House of Representatives, the LDP lost all three seats. The Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP) won all three races.

The results reflect public frustration with Kishida’s handling of the slush fund scandal and the LDP’s slow progress on political reform. The elections dealt a significant blow to Kishida’s efforts to preserve his administration.

By-elections are held twice a year, ordinarily in April and October, when a seat of any district of both Chambers of the Diet is vacant, either by resignation of a lawmaker, death or for other reasons.

One of the three by-elections, the election in the Shimane-1 district, followed the death of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hiroyuki Hosoda. Hosoda was the head of the Seiwa-kai faction, also known as the Abe faction, which was at the epicenter of the slush fund scandal. Hosoda was also suspected of having close ties to the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, the former Unification Church, and of having sexually harassed a female reporter.

In the one-on-one match-up in Shimane-1, Akiko Kamei of the CDP defeated Norimasa Nishikori of the LDP by a margin of 25,000 votes. It was almost the same as Hosoda’s winning margin in the last election in 2021. Swing voters who voted for Hosoda three years ago shifted to Kamei.

Kamei’s victory was the LDP’s first loss in this highly conservative district since the current election system was introduced in 1996. Although the Shimane branch of the LDP has been split since the gubernatorial election in 2019, the result of the by-election is widely interpreted as a protest by LDP supporters against Kishida’s indecisive handling of the slush fund scandal.

The second by-election, held in the Tokyo-15 district, filled a vacancy left by the resignation of the former LDP Representative, Mito Kakizawa. He stepped down after his arrest on suspicion of bribery in a mayoral election in Koto city, Tokyo. The LDP did not have a candidate on the ballot, and the election became a contest among nine candidates of the opposition parties.

Natsumi Sakai of the CDP won the race, with the support of the Japan Communist Party. Sakai’s victory showed that the CDP and the JCP can work together successfully in a race that does not include a LDP candidate. The Japan Innovation Party, or Nippon Ishin, took third in the race. A candidate supported by the popular governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, came in fifth.

The third by-election was held in the district of Nagasaki-3 after the resignation of Yaichi Tanigawa. He had been indicted on charges of receiving over 40 million yen in kickbacks from the Abe faction. The LDP did not have a candidate in the race. The CDP’s Katsuhiko Yamada won the seat with 53,000 votes, twice the number of votes that Ishin’s candidate received.

The message of the results in Tokyo-15 and Nagasaki-3 is that voters who gave up on the LDP turned to the CDP, rather than to Ishin. Although the LDP did not field a candidate in two of the three districts, the LDP was seen as suffering defeats in three elections. “It was an extremely severe result. We hope to restore confidence through accumulating efforts for political reform and leading political agenda to solution,” said LDP Secretary General, Toshimitsu Motegi, on the night after the elections.

Defeat in Shimane was a particularly significant blow to the Kishida administration. Typically, the prime minister will join campaigns only for winnable districts in a general election. Kishida unusually campaigned in Shimane-1 twice. The LDP’s loss surely tarnished Kishida’s reputation.

The LDP tried to avoid outright voter rejection by not offering candidates in Tokyo-15 and Nagasaki-3. But the sweeping victory by the CDP and low voter turnout in those two districts showed considerable resentment of old-style LDP politics – the undisclosed use of political funds. The results in the two districts may signal a trend in other districts all over Japan. Indeed, they may mark the end of the era of LDP’s unilateral domination.

The results of the by-elections shocked LDP lawmakers. They will now be forced into close races in the next election. They will certainly oppose a snap election. An attempt by Kishida to call one in June would instigate a movement in the LDP to replace Kishida. Party members will look for a leader who can reduce the number of victims of an unpopular leader in next election.

So far, such a movement has not materialized. Leaders of the Abe faction had questioned Kishida’s leadership. But they have been inactive since they were subjected to severe penalties in the aftermath of the slush fund scandal.

Although Motegi or former Premier Yoshihide Suga have tried to rally some in LDP, there is not a movement for either. The most popular figure to replace Kishida, Shigeru Ishiba, has not decided to run for the presidential election. A strange silence has descended on the LDP. But it is likely that someone or something will ignite a movement against Kishida, as the party heads to the presidential election in the fall.

Even the CDP cannot be optimistic about the next general election. Their three victories were the result of LDP errors. A framework of electoral cooperation is essential if other parties are to replace an LDP administration. The Head of the CDP, Kenta Izumi, once told reporters that it would take five years for CDP to achieve a regime change. It is up to Izumi to build a viable strategy quickly to replace the LDP in the next general election.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Monday Asia Events April 29, 2024

2024 US-CHINA CLING CONFERENCE. 4/29, 8:30am-4:00pm (EDT), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: SFS Asian Studies Program, Georgetown University. Speakers: Joseph Fewsmith, Boston University; Yuan Yuan Ang, Johns Hopkins; Joseph Torigian, American University; Arthur Kroeber, Gavekal Dragonomics; Alexander Gabuev, Carnegie Endowment; Dennis Ross, The Washington Institute; Sue Mi Terry, Council on Foreign Relations; Dawn Murphy, National War College; Tong Zhao, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; M. Elaine Bunn, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Rush Doshi, Georgetown University; James Mulvenon, Peraton Labs.

THE FUTURE OF THE INDO-PACIFIC WITH THE COAST GUARD COMMANDANT. 4/29, 9:30-10:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Admiral Linda L. Fagan, 27th Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard; Seth G. Jones, Senior Vice President; Harold Brown Chair; and Director, International Security Program.

A BACK-TO-BUSINESS BIRTHDAY: PRIORITIES FOR THE 2024 NATO SUMMIT IN WASHINGTON. 4/29
, 10:00am-1:00pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speakers: H.E. Julianne Smith, United States Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; More Speakers TBA.

SOFT POWER IN THE AGE OF AI AND IMMERSIVE MEDIA. 4/29.
Noon-1:00pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Weatherhead Center for International Relations; Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University. Speaker: Alexander Zahlten, Professor, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University.

THE DIFFUSION OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES | USING TEXT AS DATA IN POLICY ANALYSIS. 4/29, Noon-1:30pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Hoover Institution. Speakers: Tarek Hassan, Professor of Economics, Boston University; Josh Lerner, Jacob H. Schiff Professor, Harvard Business School and Co-Director of the HBS Private Capital Project; Nicholas Bloom, William Eberle Professor of Economics at Stanford University.

BREAKING BAD: SOUTH KOREA'S NUCLEAR OPTION. 4/29, 1:00-2:00pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Victor Cha, Senior Vice President for Asia and Korea Chair, CSIS; Distinguished University Professor and D.S.-Song KF Chair, Georgetown University; Andrew Schwartz, Chief Communications Officer, CSIS.

Diet Political Reform Committee Reestablished

Outcome Still Uncertain

By Takuya Nishimura, Senior Fellow, Former Editorial Writer for The Hokkaido Shimbun
The views expressed by the author are his own and are not associated with The Hokkaido Shimbun
You can find his blog, J Update here.
April 22, 2024. Special to Asia Policy Point.

Both Houses of the Diet have established special committees for political reform to develop legislation to regulate the management of political funds. The committees are to address the public’s distrust of politics, which arose from the slush fund scandal in the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) factions. Although Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hopes to bring about a consensus among the parties in these committees, it is still unclear whether he can.

Establishing a “special committee” beyond what already exists is a routine tactic for a ruling party to show regret for their wrongdoing. Both the Lockheed Scandal in the 1970s and the Recruit Scandal in the 1990s led to special committees even though each House already had a permanent committee to examine such scandals. This time, each chamber established a special committee for the slush fund scandal by reorganizing their existing committee for political ethics and electoral reform.

Kishida has shown his willingness to undertake reforms to political contributions and expenditures to prevent another slush fund scandal. The opposition parties have been looking for opportunities to accuse the LDP of only minor reforms of the party’s fundraising scandal. But no party disagreed with the establishment of the special committee. The parties are instead focus on matters of substance.

In the slush fund scandal, no leader of the Abe or Nikai factions was arrested or indicted, while accounting managers and private secretaries were. The three lawmakers indicted on charges of receiving excessive funding were not the leaders of a faction. Accordingly, an important point for political reform is how the leaders take responsibility.

One option is to impose heavy penalty on lawmakers who were involved in a scandal. Revoking membership in the Diet would be such a penalty. Not only the opposition parties, but the LDP’s coalition partner, Komeito, is willing to introduce such a measure. Komeito has been sensitive to criticisms from their own supporters about its cooperation with the LDP.

The LDP has revised its internal rule that the party would suggest (but not require) a leader to leave the party or have his party membership suspended whenever the accounting manager of his campaign is arrested or indicted. The leader then would be urged again to resign from the party or face expulsion. if the accounting manager is found guilty. Most LDP lawmakers oppose enacting this rule on their view that the loss of Diet membership is too heavy a punishment for a slush fund scandal.

Article 251 of the Public Offices Election Act would be a model for revocation. Under this article, a candidate’s electoral victory will be cancelled if his or her accounting manager is found guilty of bribery or a similar offense. LDP lawmakers distinguish, however, between receiving slush funds and taking bribes.

A second approach would be to ban contributions from companies or organizations. This has been under discussion for a long time with no end in sight. Currently, the Political Funds Control Act (PFCA) allows companies and organizations to contribute to a lawmaker’s campaign organization, but it prohibits direct contributions to a lawmaker personally. The LDP has learned how to exploit this rule; the opposition parties demand a total ban on contributions from companies and organizations.

A third possibility is the abolition of “policy activities fund,” a fund controlled by a party that contributes to individual lawmakers. The LDP maintains such a fund. A lawmaker who receives such funds does not have to disclose the contribution or his use of the funds. The opposition parties argue for the abolition of these funds. Komeito requires its members to disclose their use of contributions from its policy activities fund. The LDP is basically negative on abolition of the fund and any disclosures about it.

Finally, the Diet could place stricter limits on the fundraising parties, which are the source of the current scandal. The opposition parties, which do not hold such events, are urging for this reform. The Constitutional Democratic Party would ban any type of fundraising party, while the Japan Innovation Party and the Japan Communist Party propose a prohibition on the purchase of party tickets by companies and organizations.

Currently a company must report any ticket purchases to a particular party of 200,000 yen or more. Komeito has proposed lowering the threshold to 50,000 yen. The LDP has suggested only the abolition of fundraising parties by factions. Private fundraising parties by lawmakers would be untouched.

A fifth reform that the LDP is considering is an independent third-party audit of each fund-raising party. But the LDP’s overall reluctance to regulate campaign contributions comes from a lack of seriousness among LDP lawmakers. No opposition party has the power to replace the LDP as the leading party. There is also an aspect of the slush fund scandal that is a power struggle among LDP factions.

The April newspaper polls conducted last weekend showed, once again, a low approval rating for the Kishida Cabinet. Some polls did indicate a minor boost, possibly the result of his visit to the United States. This may not be enough to sway the electorate. The by-elections scheduled for April 28 may bring an unexpectedly negative result for Kishida and his party. Given continued public distrust of the LDP, it remains unclear whether the Kishida administration will survive the current political crisis.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Monday Asia Events April 22, 2024

INNOVATIONS IN CLIMATE RESILIENCE CONFERENCE 2024 (ICR24). 4/22, 8:00am-7:00pm (EDT), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: Environmental Change and Security Program, Polar Institute, Wilson Center. Speaker: TBA.

30 YEARS OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRESS: IS IT TIME AT LAST TO BE OPTIMISTIC? 4/22, 10:00-11:15am (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: American Enterprise Institute. Speakers: Matthew Continetti, Director of Domestic Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute; Steven F. Hayward, Resident Scholar, Institute of Governmental Studies, University of California, Berkeley; Roger Pielke Jr., Nonresident Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute.

JAPAN'S RESPONSES TO GLOBAL SECURITY CHALLENGES. 4/22, Noon-1:15pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Weatherhead Center for International Relations, Harvard University. Speakers: Kento Hara, Associate, Program on US-Japan Relations, Harvard University; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Takayuki Sugimoto, Associate, Program on US-Japan Relations, Harvard University; Former Vice Admiral, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force; Senior Fellow, Harvard University Asia Center; Thomas Berger, Professor of International Relations, Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies; Director, BU Center for the Study of Asia, Boston University.

NEW DIMENSIONS OF U.S. ALLIANCE COORDINATION IN EAST ASIA. 4/22, Noon-1:15pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Weatherhead Center for International Relations, Harvard University. Speakers: Chikako Kawakatsu Ueki, Visiting Scholar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor, Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University; Kento Hara, Associate, Program on US-Japan Relations, Harvard University; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Takayuki Sugimoto, Associate, Program on US-Japan Relations, Harvard University; Former Vice Admiral, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force; Senior Fellow, Harvard University Asia Center; Thomas Berger, Professor of International Relations, Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies; Director, BU Center for the Study of Asia, Boston University.

BIOPOLITICAL ENTANGLEMENTS: THE POLITICAL ECONOMY AND NATIONALIST IMAGINARIES OF CHINA'S GENETIC DATA TROVES. 4/22, 12:15-2:00pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Weatherhead Center for International Relations, Harvard University. Speaker: Abigail Coplin, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Science, Technology and Society, Vassar College.

THE U.S. ROLE IN THE WORLD: LOOKING BEYOND THE 2024 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. 4/22, 2:00-3:30pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Georgetown University. Speakers: Verónica Gago, Professor of Social Sciences, University of Buenos Aires and the National University of San Martín; Mohsin Hamid, Acclaimed British Pakistani, Author; Ece Temelkuran, Turkish Novelist, a Political Thinker, Leading Analyst; Ben Rhodes, Writer, Political Commentator, and National Security Analyst; Leonard Benardo, Senior Vice President, Open Society Foundations.

THE ROAD TO WASHINGTON’S NATO SUMMIT USIP EXPERT STUDY GROUP REPORT ON NATO AND INDO-PACIFIC PARTNERS. 4/22, 2:15-3:45pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: United States Institute of Peace. Speakers: Lise Grande, President, CEO, U.S. Institute of Peace; Kurt M. Campbell, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of State; Mirna Galic, Chair, USIP Expert Study Group on NATO, Indo-Pacific Partners.

ENGAGING WITH SOUTHEAST ASIA: THE AMBASSADORS’ PERSPECTIVE. 4/22, 2:30-3:30pm (EDT), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: Asia Society. Speakers: Hon. Marc E. Knapper, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam; The Hon. Edgard D. Kagan, U.S. Ambassador-designate to Malaysia; The Hon. Heather Variava, U.S. Ambassador to Laos.

SINO-TURKISH RELATIONS AND THE BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE. 4/22, 3:00-4:30pm (EDT), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: SFS Asian Studies Program, Georgetown University. Speaker: Burak Gürel, Associate Professor of Sociology, Co-director of the Center for Asian Studies at Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey.

Kishida’s Official Visit to the U.S.

No Surprises,  No History Here

By Takuya Nishimura, Senior Fellow, Former Editorial Writer for The Hokkaido Shimbun
The views expressed by the author are his own and are not associated with The Hokkaido Shimbun
You can find his blog, J Update here.
April 14, 2024. Special to Asia Policy Point 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s official visit to the United States, April 8-12, was billed as an effort to keep the U.S. engaged in the Indo-Pacific. China’s aggressive behavior in the region may seriously affect Japan’s national interests, thus justifying a closer alliance with the U.S. The trip’s success, however, will be measured by its boost to Kishida’s popularity, now at an historic low. This may be difficult.

Kishida agreed with U.S. President Joe Biden that the Japan-U.S. alliance has reached unprecedented heights. The Joint Leaders’ Statement, released after the summit meeting on April 10, declared that the “core of our global partnership is our bilateral defense and security cooperation under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, which is stronger than ever.”

The definition of the Japan-U.S. alliance has been revised several times. The treaty, signed in 1960, limited the role in the Far East of U.S. Forces stationed in Japan. Article VI of the treaty provides that “[f]or the purpose of contributing to the security of Japan and the maintenance of international peace and security in the Far East, the United States of America is granted the use by its land, air and naval forces of facilities and areas in Japan.”

Then-Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi (Shinzo Abe’s grandfather) determined that the “Far East” included “approximately north of the Philippines and the area surrounding Japan, including the area controlled by the Republic of Korea and the Republic of China (Taiwan).” His declaration came at a time when Japanese politicians could not call the Japan-U.S. relationship an “alliance [domei].” It was generally referred to as an “arrangement [kyotei]” or “relationship [kankei].”

The Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation in 1978 dealt with the response of U.S. Forces and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) to an armed attack on Japan. The alliance was still limited to contingencies in Japan.

The Guidelines were revised twice. In 1997, both governments added responses to situations in areas surrounding Japan. The “areas surrounding Japan” was controversial; a public debate ensued on whether the term would violate Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan. Article 9 prohibits the exercise of collective self-defense. In the end, the alliance was extended from Japan to somewhere around it. At this time, Japanese officials began to refer to the alliance as an "alliance (domei)."

The second revision in 2015 extended the framework of cooperation to the world. The 2015 revisions stated that “Japan and the United States will take a leading role in cooperation with partners to provide a foundation for peace, security, stability, and economic prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.” Kishida signed the Guidelines in his capacity as the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The joint statement by Kishida and Biden, entitled “Global Partners for the Future,” can be read as an updated version of the 2015 agreement. The two leaders announced several new strategic initiatives, including upgrading the respective Japan and U.S. command and control frameworks. The upgrades will enable of the two countries to integrate their operations and capabilities and to have greater interoperability.

Another of Kishida’s initiatives is building relationships with like-minded partners in the region. AUKUS – Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. – will consider cooperation with Japan on advanced capability projects but not necessarily on the development of nuclear submarines. The joint statement refers to military exercises among the U.S., Japan and the Republic of Korea, as well as to regular U.S.-Japan-UK exercises.

The target of the updated alliance is obviously China. Kishida and Biden confirmed their commitment to the development of AI, quantum technology, semiconductors, and biotechnology, as well as to secure supply chains of crucial minerals.

The joint statement welcomed the achievements of the Kishida administration, including an increase of the defense budget to two percent of GDP by FY 2027, the development of counterstrike capabilities, and its work in establishing a Joint Operations Command in JSDF.

It has been a question why Kishida, who presents as less hawkish than former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, would introduce these policies. Events after Kishida took office in 2021 support them, notably Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which generated public concern about authoritarian regimes including China and North Korea. In a poll taken by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 2023, 90.5 percent of the respondents thought that the security situation in East Asia had gotten worse in recent years.

Kishida did not forget to include in the joint statement the U.S. commitment to defend Japan under Article 5 of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. In his address to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress on the 11th, the day after the summit, Kishida observed that “Ukraine of today may be East Asia of tomorrow.”

Nine years ago, Abe also spoke about the Japan-U.S. alliance at a joint meeting of Congress (April 29, 2015, the birthday of late Emperor Hirohito). “Enemies that had fought each other so fiercely have become friends bonded in spirit,” he said, supporting the U.S. “rebalancing” for peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region. “We must make the vast seas stretching from the Pacific to the Indian Oceans seas of peace and freedom, where all follow the rule of law,” said Abe.

“I detect an undercurrent of self-doubt among some Americans about what your role in the world should be,” said Kishida, encouraging the U.S. to continue playing its role in world affairs. Noting that freedom, democracy and the rule of law are in the Japan’s national interest, Kishida urged the U.S. to work together for these values and said that “You are not alone.”

Those might be the words Kishida said to himself in the airplane on his way home. Many in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are frustrated with Kishida’s decision not to punish himself for his role in the slush fund scandal. Public anxiety is swelling as Kishida attempts to tackle the country’s low birth rate. Consumer price inflation continues even after the Bank of Japan ended its negative interest rate policy.

Significantly, Kishida’s defense policy has not made it through debates in the Diet. In 2022, by contrast, revisions to three security documents, including one for counterstrike capabilities, were simply a decision of the Cabinet, and did not require major amendments of law.

The Abe administration faced strong opposition to his revisions to security legislation in 2015. Although Kishida has been active in reinforcing security policy, he lacks solid public support. A poll by Kyodo News, conducted after the Japan-U.S. summit, showed a small rise in the approval rate for Kishida’s Cabinet to 23.8 percent (+3.7 points), but it marked the sixth consecutive low below 30 percent. It is worth watching to see how Kishida will implement the words in his visit to the U.S.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Monday Asia Events April 15, 2024

 AN EXPERT ANALYSIS OF SOUTH KOREA'S LEGISLATIVE ELECTION. 4/15, 8:30-9:30am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: National Committee on North Korea. Speakers: Duyeon Kim, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Indo-Pacific Security Program & Visiting Professor, Center for a New American Security, Yonsei University; Andrew Yeo, Senior Fellow & Professor of Politics Brookings Institution’s Center for Asia Policy Studies & Catholic University of America Adjunct Senior Fellow, Indo-Pacific Security Program & Visiting Professor Center for a New American Security & Yonsei University.

BOOK EVENT - WE WIN THEY LOSE: REPUBLICAN FOREIGN POLICY & THE NEW COLD WAR. 4/15, 9:00-10:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Matthew Kroenig, Vice President and Senior Director, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council; Dan Negrea, Former Senior Associate Non-resident, Project on Prosperity and Development. PURCHASE BOOK: https://amzn.to/3SWNz8M 

PROSPECTS FOR A CLEAN ENERGY FUTURE IN THE MIDDLE EAST: TECHNOLOGY, FINANCE, AND POLITICS. 4/15, 9:00-10:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Middle East Institute. Speakers: Lama Kiyasseh, Risk Management Officer, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, Non-resident Scholar, Middle East Institute; Jessica Obeid, Founding Partner, New Energy Consult, Non-Resident Scholar, Middle East Institute; Youness Abouyoub, Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Political Science, University of England, Non-Resident Scholar, Middle East Institute. 

LOOKING NORTH: CONFERENCE ON SECURITY IN THE ARCTIC. 4/15, 10:00-1:45pm (EDT), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speakers: Sherri Goodman, Senior Fellow, Polar Institute, Wilson Center, Board Director, Atlantic Council; Kathleen Larkin, Arctic Security Officer, United States Department of State; Esther McClure, Director, Arctic & Oceans Policy, United States Department of Defense; H.E. Urban Ahlin, Ambassador of Sweden to the United States; H.E. Mikko Hautala, Ambassador of Finland to the United States; Ine Eriksen Søreide, Chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense, Stortinget; Former Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defense.

A CONVERSATION ON INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL ARCHITECTURE INNOVATION AND THE SUMMIT OF THE FUTURE. 4/15, 12:30-1:45pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Stimson. Speakers: H.E. Ambassador Antje Leendertse, Permanent Representative of Germany to the UN, Co-Facilitator of the Summit of the Future’s outcome document – the Pact for the Future; H.E. Neville Gertze, Permanent Representative of Namibia to the UN, Co-Facilitator of the Summit of the Future’s outcome document – the Pact for the Future; H.E. Ambassador Adonia Ayebare, Permanent Representative of Uganda to the UN, Coordinator at the UN in New York of the G77 + China; H.E. Alexia Latortue, Assistant Secretary for International Trade, Development, U.S. Department of the Treasury.

THE INSIDERS’ GAME: HOW ELITES MAKE WAR AND PEACE. 4/15, 12:30-2:00pm (EDT), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: Georgetown University. Speaker: author Elizabeth N. Saunders, Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. PURCHASE BOOK: https://amzn.to/43T0P3g

RIKKI KERSTEN MEMORIAL SEMINAR. 4/15, 2:00-3:30pm (AEST), 1:00-2:30pm (JST), 12:30-2:00am (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Australian National University. Speakers: Professor Llewelyn Hughes, ANU; Professor Sandra Wilson, Murdoch University; Dr Andrew Levidis, ANU; Emeritus Professor William Tow, ANU.

HIGH WIRE: HOW CHINA REGULATES BIG TECH AND GOVERNS ITS ECONOMY. 4/15, 3:00-4:30pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: New York University. Speaker: author Angela Zhang, associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, director of the Philip K. H. Wong Center for Chinese Law. PURCHASE BOOK: https://amzn.to/4cZxubm

CATASTROPHIC DIPLOMACY: US FOREIGN DISASTER ASSISTANCE IN THE AMERICAN CENTURY. 4/15, 4:00-5:30pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: History and Public Program, Wilson Center. Speakers: author Julia Irwin, University of South Florida; Megan Black, Associate Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Sarah B. Snyder, Member, History and Public Policy Program, Advisory Board. PURCHASE BOOK: https://amzn.to/3TfBifx

REFLECTIONS FROM MOSCOW AND UKRAINE: LESSONS FOR TAIWAN. 4/15, 5:00-6:00pm (EDT), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: Institute of World Politics. Speaker: Rear Admiral Philip Yu, U.S. Navy (retired), served as the U.S. defense attaché to the Russian Federation from 2020 to 2022.

LAND POWER IN THE INDO-PACIFIC. 4/15, 8:00pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Yokosuka Council on Asia Pacific Studies. Speakers: LTC Tim Devine, Active Duty U.S. Army Strategist, U.S. Army Pacific; LtCol Zach Ota, Infantry Officer, Southeast Asia Regional Affairs Officer, United States Marine Corps, Operational Planner, U.S. Pacific Fleet and U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.