PM Kishida Diet speech pledges political reform, rebuilding of quake-hit areas

Japan's Prime Minister Kishida Fumio in his Diet policy speech has stated his resolve to restore public trust in politics. This comes in the wake of a fundraising scandal involving factions of his main governing Liberal Democratic Party.

Kishida started his speech on Tuesday by expressing condolences to the victims of the powerful earthquake that struck the Noto region of Ishikawa Prefecture on New Year's Day.

Kishida said that reserve funds in the fiscal 2024 budget have been doubled to 1 trillion yen, or about 6.8 billion dollars. He said he will head a taskforce to rebuild the affected areas and do what can be done, adding that the government will assume responsibility until the areas recover.

Regarding the fundraising scandal, Kishida said it is extremely regrettable and he sincerely apologizes. He indicated that he will call for legislative measures including revisions to the political funds control law after holding talks with other parties and Diet groups.

The prime minister acknowledged that LDP factions are regarded as groups involved in monetary matters and securing key posts in the Cabinet and the party. He said he is sincerely remorseful and has decided to completely separate policy groups from money and personnel matters.

On diplomatic and security affairs, Kishida said he plans to expand and deepen Japan's bilateral ties with the United States through occasions such as his planned official visit to Washington in early April.

He also said Japan will strengthen sanctions against Russia and continue support for Ukraine. He noted that the Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Reconstruction will be held in Tokyo in February.

The prime minister's policy speech is normally delivered on the first day. The Diet session opened last Friday, but in an extraordinary move, the speech was pushed back, while committee sessions on politics and money were held on Monday.