LDP presidential candidates must present strategies to overcome crisis

Japan is currently facing difficult situations, both at home and abroad. Concrete strategies for overcoming this crisis and securing the national interest must be discussed.

Taro Kono, minister in charge of administrative and regulatory reform; former Liberal Democratic Party Policy Research Council Chairperson Fumio Kishida; former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi; and LDP Executive Acting Secretary General Seiko Noda participated in a debate of LDP presidential candidates organized by the Japan National Press Club.

The top priority is to deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic. Although the number of newly infected people has been decreasing, vigilance must not be lowered and preparations must be made for a possible resurgence.

Kono called for strengthening the government’s authority to secure hospital beds and enhancing the COVID-19 testing system by supplying a large number of simple test kits. Kishida stressed that the government should establish a system to take the lead in securing hospital beds, through such means as designating “core hospitals for an infectious disease crisis.”

Takaichi expressed her intention to work on legal revisions to allow the government to issue orders to medical institutions and medical workers. Noda called for setting up temporary facilities to receive infected patients.

Japan has many small and medium-sized private hospitals, putting the country at risk of having too few beds even if there are fewer infected patients than in other advanced countries. There should be further discussion of what kind of authority the central government should hold, including the sharing of roles with prefectural governments.

With the prolonged requests for people to refrain from going out and for restaurants and other businesses to limit their operations, it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain the public’s cooperation. It is important to provide full explanations and work to restore the public’s trust in the government.

In the fields of diplomacy and national security, the focus is on how to deal with China. Kono and Kishida expressed their intention to promote dialogue with China, including talks between the nations’ leaders.

North Korea has conducted a succession of missile launches this month. The Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been putting off the formulation of a new policy on counterattacks against missile attacks, and strengthening deterrence has become an issue.

Kishida expressed his intention to consider a new policy. Kono only stated that “deterrence will be enhanced within the Japan-U.S. alliance.”

The neighboring countries are taking actions that could cause tension, as if they anticipated a political vacuum in Japan. It is unfortunate that no specific views were presented by any of the candidates.

On energy policy, Kishida, Takaichi and Noda argued that nuclear power is necessary to secure a stable supply of electricity.

Kono, while acknowledging the need to restart nuclear power plants for the time being, said that the nuclear fuel cycle, in which spent nuclear fuel is reused, should be ended. However, there are fears that the handling of spent nuclear fuel will not be transparent and that opposition to nuclear power will grow.

As the Sept. 29 election of the new LDP president approaches, the candidates should deepen their debates in keeping with the current state of affairs.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Sept. 19, 2021.