Pandemic, security top new Cabinet’s to-do list

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during a press conference on Wednesday.

The reshuffled Cabinet of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida faces a raft of domestic and international challenges, including the coronavirus pandemic response, surging prices and strengthening the nation’s defense capabilities.

After launching the new Cabinet on Wednesday, Kishida said he intended to strike a balance between the pandemic battle and maintaining economic and social activities.

“We must move forward to a new phase, starting with considering how the novel coronavirus will be classified under the Infectious Diseases Law,” Kishida said at a press conference.

Kishida also said he wants to push ahead with easing border control restrictions “to make it possible to enter Japan as smoothly as it is to enter other G7 nations.”

After the seventh wave of the pandemic subsides, the government will start considering a review of how the virus should be handled under the law, including whether all cases need to be identified. The government will consider strengthening the authority of the central and prefectural governments to secure hospital beds for COVID-19 patients. The government will also push ahead with the establishment of a crisis management agency at the Cabinet Secretariat to deal with infectious disease control measures.

The government is preparing to compile an additional massive package of economic measures in autumn or later to tackle surging living costs.

Kishida touched on the possibility of crafting a second supplementary budget for fiscal 2022. “I’ll decide after carefully examining the situation,” Kishida said at the press conference.

Going forward, a focus will be on whether Kishida can give a tangible shape to his much-touted policy of realizing a “new form of capitalism.”

The new Cabinet also faces challenges in the diplomatic and security fields. The most pressing issue is how to bolster deterrence against China, which is cranking up military pressure on Taiwan and elsewhere in the region.

The government will revise three key defense-related documents, including the National Security Strategy, by the end of this year, and plans to fundamentally bolster the nation’s defense capabilities.

The government is also expected to state that the nation can possess capabilities to conduct counterattacks on enemy missile launch sites and other targets for the purpose of self-defense.

Kishida indicated Wednesday he is willing to hold a summit with Beijing. “I am always open to dialogue with the Chinese side,” Kishida said.

The Cabinet also must address several pending issues with South Korea, including compensation claims involving Korean laborers requisitioned to work in Japan during World War II by Japanese companies.