China-Friendly Lawmaker Appointed Japan Foreign Minister
(Bloomberg) -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida appointed a China-friendly veteran lawmaker to the post of foreign minister on Wednesday, balancing out more hawkish politicians picked for other senior positions.
The new premier named Yoshimasa Hayashi, 60, who is the head of a lawmakers’ group promoting Japan-China friendship. Hayashi is also a member of Kishida’s faction, which is known within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for its history of building ties with China.
Kishida, previously seen as a dove on foreign policy, toughened his stance on China during his run for leadership of the LDP in September and appointed rival Sanae Takaichi, who has backed a tough line toward Beijing, to a key party post after winning the election. He also named this week an outspoken China critic to a new position as adviser on human rights.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno announced Hayashi’s appointment after Kishida was re-elected prime minister by parliament at a special session Wednesday afternoon following his election victory last week. The remainder of the cabinet was unchanged.
Japan’s relations with China have turned increasingly testy since Beijing’s clampdown on Hong Kong, and Tokyo has openly expressed concerns about tensions across the Taiwan Strait and their effect on regional security. Japan has nonetheless sought to maintain economic ties with its biggest trade partner China, even as it relies on the U.S. as its only military ally.
Hayashi said Monday that Japan needed people with knowledge of China, but it was important not to pander to Beijing, according to a transcript of his comments published by FNN Prime Online.
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The position of foreign minister opened up when Kishida’s party No. 2 resigned his post after faring poorly in last month’s general election. The previous foreign minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, was shifted to the party position.
Hayashi, who graduated from Harvard University’s Kennedy School, has served as defense minister and education minister. He ran against Shinzo Abe for leadership of the LDP in 2012. Abe won, and went on to become Japan’s longest-serving premier.
A veteran member of the upper house, Hayashi switched to the more powerful lower house in the latest election, a move that could bolster his chances of becoming prime minister. He’s the son of former Finance Minister Yoshiro Hayashi.
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