Japan's Prime Minister Kishida vows to take initiative in tackling global issues

Japan's prime minister says his country will take a leadership role in tackling global issues as chair of this year's Group of Seven summit. He also pledged wage hikes to help Japan's economy expand robustly.

Kishida Fumio delivered a New Year's address on Wednesday after visiting Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture, central Japan.

Kishida emphasized that he has been energetically tackling urgent challenges, such as strengthening Japan's defense capabilities.

Kishida expressed his determination to continue taking on pressing issues this year. He said he would try to resolve long-standing domestic economic issues to kick off a new and positive business cycle. He said he would also seek to reverse Japan's low birthrate.

The prime minister pledged wage increases to build a basis for strong and sustainable economic growth that would produce less disparity.

Kishida revealed his intention to use this spring's labor-management negotiations to ask businesses to help bring about wage hikes that would exceed the country's inflation rate. He added that the government would aim for similar raises for civil employees.

Kishida referred to Japan's chairmanship of the G7 summit in May in the atomic-bombed city of Hiroshima.

He said Russia's actions have been fueling concerns over the possible use of nuclear weapons. He pledged to send a powerful message from the Japanese city to realize a world without nuclear weapons.

The prime minister underscored the need to cope with global issues, ranging from Russia's invasion of Ukraine and crises over food and energy to measures against infectious diseases and climate change.

Kishida disclosed his plans to visit France, Britain, the United States and other places, starting on Monday.

Kishida will meet with US President Joe Biden in Washington on January 13. The prime minister said the meeting would be a very important one, involving more than just coordination for the G7 summit.

Kishida indicated that he would use the talks with Biden to show how Japan and the US can further solidify their alliance. The Japanese government revised three key security documents last month to comprehensively reinforce its defense capabilities.