Speaking at the opening of the current session of Parliament on Jan. 17, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida asserted: “Amid an increasingly severe and complex international situation, this is a year that will test how astute Japanese diplomacy can be.”

He continued: “I will stand at the fore, firmly holding aloft the flag of ideals for the future, and, looking squarely at the actual situation, pursue ‘realism diplomacy for a new era.’” Tellingly, in subsequent weeks the English version of Kishida’s speech underwent some revisions.

While the initial English translation released by the Cabinet Office rendered Kishida’s vision of Japanese diplomacy as “tough but adaptable,” this was recently changed to “astute,” as in "astute diplomacy" (shitatakana gaikō), presumably in an effort to dispel any negative connotation inherent to the original Japanese. The administration’s struggle to convey to the world a diplomatic position that is realistic, persistent and flexible is understandable given an international environment that has been roiled by U.S-China tensions, changes to the international order and geoeconomic conflicts that weaponize economies.