FILE PHOTO: Taro Kono, the head of Japan’s vaccination program and ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker, attends a news conference as he announces his candidacy for the party’s presidential election in Tokyo, Japan September 10, 2021 declare. REUTERS/Issei Kato
September 13, 2021
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan should let its coast guard work smoothly with self-defense forces, in the face of assertiveness by giant neighbor China, ruling party chief Fumio Kishida, and to become the next prime minister, said on Monday.
Only legislators and grassroots members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will vote for its chief in the September 29 election, but the candidates’ popularity among the public matters, as the winner will lead it in the general elections this year.
“The security environment around Japan is getting tougher,” Kishida told a news conference.
“We need to try to ensure maritime security through measures such as enhancing Coast Guard capability and allowing them to work with self-defense forces.”
Gaining the ability to strike enemy positions was an option, Kishida said, adding that he would not blindly adhere to keeping defense spending below 1% of Japan’s GDP if necessary to protect civilians.
The remarks follow a surprise announcement by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga this month that he would end a one-year term in which his support was shattered as the coronavirus infection spread.
The LDP’s dominant position in the lower house of parliament ensures the post of prime minister for its leader.
Kishida stressed the importance of protecting human rights, democracy and freedoms, and said that, if elected, he would appoint a prime ministerial aide to oversee the treatment of China’s Uighur ethnic minority.
“Through cooperation with countries with whom Japan shares universal values, I will raise the torch of freedom and democracy,” the former foreign minister said.
In the weekend’s opinion polls on the choice of Suga’s successor as head of the ruling party, Taro Kono, the minister in charge of TK, emerged as the preferred candidate.
He was chosen by 33% of respondents in a weekend poll by the Asahi daily, followed by 16% for former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba and 14% for Kishida.
The survey also revealed that 58% of respondents believed that the next LDP leader should not take on the policies of Suga and Shinzo Abe, which preceded Suga.
A similar poll by Nikkei Business Daily also put Kono ahead, supported by 27% of respondents, with 17% for Ishiba and 14% for Kishida.
Kono and Kishida have announced their candidacy for the party’s top post, while Ishiba has not disclosed his intention.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Clarence Fernandez)