National / Politics

Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, potential challenger to Abe, can get the job done

by Daisuke Kikuchi

Staff Writer

Liberal Democratic Party policy chief Fumio Kishida, rumored to be one of the contenders for the party’s presidential race, isn’t exactly a person with striking characteristics.

While former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba is often described as an eccentric gunji otaku (military geek) who at times offers insights into light topics such as Godzilla and criticizes Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Kishida, 60, refrains from confronting Abe.

He is also known as a person who gets the job done.

As the second-longest serving foreign minister in the postwar era, Kishida has been a key figure in historic events, including the 2016 visit by then-President Barack Obama to Hiroshima, which Kishida represents in the Diet.

Kishida was also part of the landmark deal inked in 2015 with South Korea to resolve the issue of the “comfort women,” the females who were forced to work at Japan’s wartime military brothels.

Kishida’s exit from Abe’s Cabinet and his appointment as LDP policy chief in August last year was seen as a prelude to a run for the party’s leadership.

The nine-term House of Representatives lawmaker has yet to officially announce his candidacy for the September race, but he reportedly said earlier this month that he would make his decision after the Diet closes in June.

In contrast with the right-leaning Abe, Kishida is viewed as a dove who is cautious about immediately revising war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution. He says careful discussions on the sensitive issue are a must to succeed in persuading the public. He heads an LDP faction called Kochi Kai.

Kishida was state minister in charge of Okinawa and Northern Territories affairs from 2007 to 2008 in Abe’s first Cabinet and the Cabinet of Yasuo Fukuda.

A blue-blood, Kishida’s father and grandfather were also Lower House members. After graduating from Waseda University in 1982, he worked at the now-defunct Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan before entering the Lower House in 1993.

Aside from his career as a politician, he also won the Japan Best Dressed Eye Award in 2015, which is given to the best wearer of glasses.

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