Japanese PM hopes Kono calls for regular summit with China
TOKYO – The future energy policies of Japan and China took center stage in a debate on Saturday as the four presidential candidates from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party exchanged views on the challenges facing the country is facing.
Taro Kono, the liberal and outspoken minister of vaccines; Fumio Kishida, considered a candidate for establishment; Sanae Takaichi, a die-hard conservative and former head of party policy; and Seiko Noda, former Minister of Home Affairs; participated in the debate organized by the Japan National Press Club.
The triennial election, which will stamp the winner with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s successor, will be held on September 29.
On foreign policy, two of the candidates stressed the need for dialogue with China.
Kono said the Japan-China summits are expected to be held regularly, but the premier’s participation in the Beijing Winter Olympics in less than five months is expected to be decided later.
Kishida echoed the sentiment. “Dialogue between leaders and senior officials is the basis of everything,” he said. “The dialogue must continue.”
Regarding a possible emergency in Taiwan, Kishida said Japan will “react in accordance with the provisions of security laws to protect people’s lives and livelihoods,” explaining that Japan will use the framework of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. , or Quad, a security alliance. with the United States, Australia and India.
Kono said he would like to see Quad partners working with other blocks. “In addition to the Japan-US Alliance, I would like ATV and Europe to turn their attention to the Pacific,” he said.
Takaichi argued that an emergency in or near Taiwan is likely and that Japan should prepare for such an eventuality. “What Japan can do, especially militarily, is limited,” she said, suggesting that Japan is exerting influence and power through its security alliance with the United States.
Noda stressed the importance of diplomacy at the top. “The time has come,” she said, “for senior leaders to engage in strong diplomacy.”
Another hot topic was the unraveling of relations between Japan and South Korea. Kishida said the 2015 Japan-South Korea deal, which he signed as foreign minister, remains important. “The world has praised it,” he said, “and Japan has executed all the agreements. The current situation is that Japan continues to move closer to South Korea.
Problems with the history of Japan’s war in South Korea erupted again in 2018 when the Supreme Court of South Korea ruled that Japanese companies must pay reparations to workers during wartime.
Japan maintains that a treaty between the two nations settled the issue decades ago.
“The question of whether to respect international law and treaties is called into question,” Kishida said. “The ball is in South Korea’s court.”
Kono said South Korea needs to sort out its own legal issues. “It is a fundamental principle that the South Korean government takes appropriate measures,” he said.
Earlier this year, a Seoul district court dismissed a claim for damages brought by 85 Koreans forced to work for 16 Japanese companies during World War II. Two months earlier, the same court had dismissed a claim for damages brought by 20 former South Korean “comfort women” against the Japanese government.
Japan responded to the 2018 decision by restricting exports to South Korea of key components.
Regarding export restrictions, Kono argued that “in principle, Japan and South Korea should discuss and do what is necessary, but not what is unnecessary.”
As for North Korea, Kono said he hoped to hold a summit and put pressure on Kim Jong Un over the kidnappings of Japanese nationals in his country in the 1970s and 1980s. “During my tenure as foreign minister, he said, I had several exchanges with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Korea. It is a problem that cannot be solved without the leaders on the other side.
Kono also pledged to redouble efforts to deter North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs through the Japan-US alliance. “It is important to increase the deterrence against North Korea and to convey messages to them,” he said.
Kishida appeared to indicate that he would start direct talks with Pyongyang. “First and foremost,” he said, “it’s time to review the [U.S. President Joe] the North Korean policy of the Biden administration and examine how Japan can act while communicating with each other. “
In terms of energy policy, restarting nuclear reactors has become a central point. Kono, known for his opposition to nuclear power, said he would aim to reduce energy use and increase the share of renewables.
But, he said, “currently the only way to compensate for the [energy] the shortfall is to restart nuclear power plants. “
He also said that social pressure to restart nuclear power has hampered the development of renewable energy. All of Japan’s nuclear power plants were closed in 2011 after three collapses in Fukushima Prefecture, triggered by a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in March of the same year.
Kono, however, did not specify how long it would take before a switch to renewables leads to a phase-out of nuclear power.
“Having a widely dispersed power generation capacity, such as renewables, is an advantage for a stable supply in an emergency,” he said. Referring to an earthquake in Hokkaido that caused a massive blackout in 2018, Kono said that large power plants cannot necessarily ensure stable electricity flows.
“An increasing number of countries have low renewable energy costs,” he said. “Japan will end up being like this.”
Kishida asked Kono for his take on the nuclear fuel cycle, which reuses reprocessed nuclear fuel. Kono, who opposes fuel recycling, said the biggest problem with nuclear power generation is the unresolved issue of disposal.
Takaichi said research and development costs should be allocated to nuclear reactors. “This will lead to the stability of Japanese industry and a stable energy supply,” she argued.
Noda stressed the importance of a stable energy supply and said she intended to promote geothermal energy production.