Japan's Parliament elects former diplomat Kishida as new PM

Kishida replaces Yoshihide Suga, who resigned with his Cabinet earlier in the day. Kishida and his Cabinet will be sworn in at a palace ceremony later Monday


Japan's parliament on Monday elected Fumio Kishida as thenew prime minister, who will tasked with quickly tackling the pandemic andsecurity challenges before an imminent national election.

Kishida replaces Yoshihide Suga, who resigned with his Cabinet earlier in theday. Kishida and his Cabinet will be sworn in at a palace ceremony laterMonday. Suga left after only one year in office after seeing his support plunge overhis government's handling of the pandemic and insistence on holding theOlympics as the virus spread.

A former foreign minister, Kishida, 64, used to be known as a dovish moderatebut turned hawkish apparently to win over influential conservatives in theparty. He is firmly entrenched in the conservative establishment and hisvictory in the party election was a choice for continuity and stability overchange.

All but two of 20 Cabinet posts under Suga will be replaced, 13 them appointedto ministerial posts for the first time, Japanese media reported. Most of theposts went to powerful factions that voted for Kishida in the party election.Only three women are reportedly included, up from two in Suga's government.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi are to beretained, ensuring continuity of Japan's diplomacy and security policies as thecountry seeks to closely work with Washington under the bilateral security pactin the face of China's rise and growing tensions in the region, includingaround Taiwan.

Kishida supports stronger Japan-U.S. security ties and partnerships with otherlike-minded democracies in Asia, Europe and Britain, in part to counter Chinaand nuclear-armed North Korea.

Kishida is to create a new Cabinet post aimed at tackling economic dimensionsof Japan's national security, appointing 46-year-old Takayuki Kobayashi, who isrelatively new to parliament.

Japan faces growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, which lastmonth test-fired ballistic missiles capable of hitting targets in Japan.Kishida also faces worsening ties with fellow U.S. ally South Korea overhistory issues even after he struck a 2015 agreement with Seoul to resolve arow over the issue of women who were sexually abused by Japan's military duringWorld War II.

An urgent task at home will be turning around his party's sagging popularity,hurt by Suga's perceived high-handedness on the pandemic and other issues.Kishida is expected to make a policy speech later this week before dissolvingthe lower house of Parliament ahead of the general election expected bymid-November.

He'll also have to ensure Japan's health care systems, vaccination campaign andother virus measures are ready for a possible resurgence of COVID-19 in winter,while gradually normalizing social and economic activity.

Kishida said last week that his top priority would be the economy. Kishida'snew capitalism is largely a continuation of Abe's economic policies. He aims toraise income of more people and create a cycle of growth and distribution.

A third-generation politician, Kishida was first elected to Parliament in 1993representing Hiroshima and is an advocate for nuclear disarmament. He escortedformer President Barack Obama during his 2016 visit to the city that, alongwith Nagasaki, was destroyed in U.S. atomic bombings in the closing days ofWorld War II. 

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