Mr. Kishida started out by trying to distinguish himself from Mr. Abe, offering a “new capitalism” as a departure from Mr. Abe’s well-known economic platform, dubbed “Abenomics.” Mr. Kishida said he wanted to narrow income inequality and proposed raising some taxes.
He has since ratcheted back that rhetoric, and he has seemed to embrace Mr. Abe’s calls for doubling defense spending and amending the Constitution.
Still, analysts see glimmers of Mr. Kishida trying to be his own man.
Giving the keynote speech last month at a security forum hosted by Singapore, he noted that Germany had announced it would raise its defense budget to 2 percent of its annual economic output — a goal that Mr. Abe had sought for Japan. But Mr. Kishida did not cite a numerical target, instead pledging a “substantial increase.” What’s more, he said Japan would “proceed within the scope of our Constitution.”
Yuki Tatsumi, director of the Japan Program at the Stimson Center in Washington, said she saw Mr. Kishida as “pushing back on some of the stuff that Abe was pushing on him in the court of public opinion.”
As recently as Thursday, Mr. Kishida, referring to defense spending, said that “we must be realistic and concrete in our discussions but at the same time, not be numbers-oriented.”
Economic reality may undercut the possibility of setting drastic targets. With inflation rising, the yen depreciating, coronavirus infections increasing and, in the longer term, the population aging and the birthrate falling, Mr. Kishida may find he doesn’t have the money to pay for all government priorities.