Hayashi got the nod despite reservations

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida picked close ally Yoshimasa Hayashi as foreign minister in the Cabinet inaugurated Wednesday despite reservations on the part of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Liberal Democratic Party Vice President Taro Aso.

With Kishida hoping to meet U.S. President Joe Biden in the United States before the end of the year, Hayashi will have to get straight down to business to coordinate the visit.

“I will shoulder the heavy responsibility of [Japan’s] diplomacy. I will give 120% to support the Kishida administration,” Hayashi, a former education minister, told reporters at the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Hayashi said Kishida asked him to serve as foreign minister by phone Tuesday night.

Following the defeat of former LDP Secretary General Akira Amari in his constituency in the lower house election last month, Kishida called on then-Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi to replace Amari within a month of taking office.

But the prime minister, who led the foreign ministry for more than four years, had to hastily find someone to fill the vacated Cabinet post.

Hayashi is one of the party’s most knowledgeable policy experts and has extensive overseas experience.

Kishida appointed Motegi as LDP secretary general on Nov. 4. The following day he called Abe and Aso to discuss the appointment of Hayashi as foreign minister. Both Abe and Aso advised caution, citing the fact that Hayashi has served as chairman of the Japan-China Parliamentary Friendship Association since December 2017, which may send the wrong message to the international community on Japan’s relationship with China.

Nevertheless, the prime minister refused to budge, apparently aiming to strike a balance in the Cabinet by appointing a key member of his faction, in which Hayashi is second in command. The chief cabinet secretary is a member of the Hosoda faction and the finance minister is in the Aso faction.

Kishida has said he wanted someone he knows well in the Cabinet, according to sources close to the prime minister.

With Motegi and Policy Research Council Chairperson Sanae Takaichi seen as future party leaders, Kishida may be hoping to groom a successor from his faction through the appointment of Hayashi, who stood in the party leadership race in September 2012 and has publicly expressed his desire to become prime minister in the future.

In light of concerns within the LDP about his stance on China, Hayashi said on a TV program Monday, “It’s okay to be knowledgeable about China, but we shouldn’t snuggle up to China. Knowing your counterpart is better than not knowing them.”

A senior Foreign Ministry official said: “[Hayashi] knows not only China but also the United States, where he studied. His knowledge of the two countries that are most important in Japanese diplomacy makes him the right person for the job.”