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.

, 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.

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: 

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:

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:

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:

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.

The LDP's Moral Hazard

No Punishment for the LDP President

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 8, 2024. Special to Asia Policy Point

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) recently announced punishments against the lawmakers who had been involved in the slush fund scandal that emerged last December. But for a few scapegoats, the punishments were light.

Of the 82 lawmakers with the former Abe or Nikai factions who admitted to failing to report surplus funds from ticket sales to fundraising parties, only 39 were punished. Prime Minister Kishida, as the president of the LDP, was not punished, leaving many frustrated.

Five former leaders of the Abe faction received the stiffest penalties. Four out of the five participated in discussions in the Abe faction in 2022 on whether to abolish the kickback system. Despite their leadership responsibilities, they took no action.

The harshest sanctions were imposed on the former chair of the Abe faction, Ryu Shionoya and the former leader of that faction’s House of Councillors’ membership, Hiroshige Seko. They were asked to leave the party. If they did not so within the allotted time, they would be expelled. Seko immediately left the party. Shionoya is considering whether to appeal: “I cannot accept that unjustly heavy penalty, which was imposed on the members of Abe faction making them scapegoats,” said Shionoya in a press conference.

Former Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Yasutoshi Nishimura, and former Education Minister, Hakubun Shimomura, received lighter penalties: they were suspended from party membership for one year. Former Chair of LDP Diet Affairs, Tsuyoshi Takagi, who succeeded Nishimura as the secretary general of the Abe faction in late August of 2022, was suspended from party membership for just six months.

Nishimura, Shimomura, and Takagi could run for re-election, but they will not have the official backing of the LDP until their suspensions end. If an election is called before then, they will face an uphill battle without financial support from the party.

As to the other 77 party members, they all avoided heavy penalties. Sanctions on the 77 were calibrated by the amount of funds they failed to report.

In contrast to the former leaders of the Abe faction, the former Chair of the LDP Policy Research Council, Koichi Hagiuda, and former Chief Cabinet Secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, were suspended only from leadership posts for a year; there was no suspension from party membership. Hagiuda and Matsuno have been important in the Kishida administration, which probably helped them escape more serious penalties. Seven lawmakers who were the leaders of Nikai faction or who failed to report funds in amounts over 20 million yen received the same one-year suspension from leadership posts.

Eight lawmakers who did not report surplus funds of between 10 and 20 million yen were suspended from leadership positions for six months. Seventeen others who did not report between five and ten million yen were merely reprimanded Forty-three lawmakers each of whom failed to report less than five million yen, were not punished at all. That is, the LDP did not impose any penalty on over half of the lawmakers involved in the scandal.

A few thoughts come immediately to mind. First, Kishida’s highest priority is reelection as LDP President. The power of the Abe faction has been an inconvenient truth for Kishida. Although discovery of the slush fund scandal was unexpected, it gave Kishida an opportunity to control that faction, but not to dismantle it. That would have posed too great a risk since it would solidify opposition to him.

Second, Kishida’s strategy in the scandal is to divide and rule. One of the lightly punished leaders, Haguida, has gained Kishida’s personal trust as evidenced by his temporary consideration for appointment as Chief Cabinet Secretary in last September’s cabinet reshuffle. The other, Matsuno, was Kishida’s original choice for CCS at the beginning of the Kishida administration. Kishida hopes to keep Hagiuda, who has many colleagues in Abe faction, and Matsuno close to him. The other – more heavily punished – leaders in the Abe faction did not have close relationship with Kishida.

Third, Kishida cannot punish too many lawmakers because he does not want to create too many enemies in the LDP. If the penalized lawmakers were to leave the party, it would take away votes in the Diet that Kishida needs to pass legislation. Kishida limited the heaviest penalties to the five leaders of the Abe faction. Shionoya and Seko must be the scapegoats to defend his administration from public criticism and further decline in his approval ratings.

Striking this balance between punishment and leniency in the LDP is unlikely to enable Kishida to salvage his administration from the quagmire of scandal. The punishments were far smaller than those in 2005, when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi sanctioned the lawmakers who voted against a postal reform bill. Those lawmakers simply defied a policy of the president of their party and did not violate the law. This time, the lawmakers did break the law.

The lack of any punishment for Kishida brings a moral hazard. Kishida has led his faction since before the scandal was revealed last December. An accounting manager in his faction was indicted on a charge of failing to report 30 million yen of political funds. While the leaders of the Abe faction were punished for failing to meet their leadership responsibilities, Kishida escaped any.

It is difficult to punish the president. Even a light penalty, such as suspension from party leadership position, could lead to the resignation of the president, or Prime Minister. Yet a zero penalty can hardly be balanced against the heavy ones for the Abe faction leaders. The only reasonable choice is to step down. Kishida has not chosen this option.

“I have an impression why was he [Kishida] dropped,” said Shionoya in his press conference, “He should be responsible for something, at least in lights of his position as the LDP president or as the head of a faction.” The opposition parties are taking the offensive and pushing for a snap election to hear voters’ voices about LDP politics. While Kishida hopes to raise his approval rating with some achievements in the summit meeting with US President Joe Biden this week, public frustration against an irresponsible prime minister will stick around.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Monday Asia Events April 8, 2024

9:00-10:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Stimson Center. Speakers: Monica Arienzo, Associate Research Professor of Hydrology, The Desert Research Institute; Philip Landrigan, Director, Global Observatory on Planetary Health, Boston College.

CHINESE PERSPECTIVES ON CYBER GOVERNANCE. 4/8, 9:00-10:30am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Georgetown University. Speakers: Xuechen Chen, assistant professor in politics and international relations at Northeastern University London, visiting research fellow at the London Asia-Pacific Centre for Social Science, King’s College London; Rachel Ann Hulvey, doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, graduate affiliate of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China; John Lee, director of East West Futures Consulting. 

PREVIEWING PRIME MINISTER KISHIDA’S VISIT TO WASHINGTON: A CONVERSATION WITH TWO AMBASSADORS. 4/8, 10:00-10:45am (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Ambassador Rahm Emanuel, United States Ambassador to Japan; Ambassador Yamada Shigeo, Japanese Ambassador to the United States of America. 

ALGORITHMS OF WAR: THE USE OF AI IN ARMED CONFLICT. 4/8, 4:00-5:00pm (BST), 11:00-Noon (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: University of Oxford. Speakers: Joel H. Rosenthal, President of Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs; Janina Dill, The Dame Louise Richardson Chair in Global Security; Ciaran Martin, Professor of Practice in the Management of Public Organisations; Tom Simpson, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy. 

INTERNATIONAL CONFLICTS OVER GLOBALIZATION. 4/8, Noon-1:15pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Weatherhead Center for International Relations, Harvard University. Speakers: Sayaka Kume, Associate, Program on US-Japan Relations, Harvard University; Ministry of Finance; Sayumi Miyano, Postdoctoral Fellow, Program on US-Japan Relations, Harvard University; Ryuta Ueda, Associate, Program on US-Japan Relations, Harvard University, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; William Grimes, Professor of International Relations, Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University.

INDIA VOTES 2024: COVERING THE ELECTIONS. 4/8, Noon-1:30pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University. Speakers: Seema Chishti, editor, The Wire; Surabhi Tandon, Emmy nominated reporter, video journalist and filmmaker from India, and a current fellow at the Nieman Foundation; Samir Patil, founder and publisher, Scroll; Mujib Mashal, New Delhi Bureau Chief, The New York Times.

LIBERALISM AGAINST ITSELF: COLD WAR INTELLECTUALS AND THE MAKING OF OUR TIMES. 4/8, 4:00-5:30pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: History and Public Policy Program, Wilson Center. Speakers: Author Samuel Moyn, Chancellor Kent Professor of Law and History, Yale University; Michael Kimmage, Professor of History, Catholic University of America; Jennifer Ratner- Rosenhagen, University of Wisconsin Madison. PURCHASE BOOK: