Candidates in the race to be Japan's next prime minister launched their campaigns on Friday, with front-runner Shinzo Abe calling for better ties with Asia but criticizing China and South Korea for refusing to hold a summit with Tokyo.
Abe, Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki and Foreign Minister Taro Aso are running for the presidency of the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Sept. 20, a position that guarantees their election by parliament as the next prime minister.
Abe, 51, currently chief Cabinet secretary and incumbent Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's right-hand man, said he supports an improvement in Tokyo's troubled relations with Asia.
"Japan's door is always open," he said, referring to a summit. "Leaders should hold talks when there are problems. To refuse to meet because of problems, that's the other way round."
The pro-Washington candidate also pledged to preserve Japan's expanding relationship with the US.
"Our security alliance with the US has brought us security, and has brought peace to the region," he said in a three-way debate with Aso and Tanigaki. "To improve relations with China and South Korea, I believe all sides must make efforts to take steps forward."
China and South Korea have demanded that Koizumi promise not to visit the Yasukuni war shrine, which honors war criminals along with Japan's war dead, as a precondition for a summit. Koizumi has refused.
Koizumi, who took office in April 2001, has said he would step down at the end of this month when his current term ends as head of the ruling party and prime minister. The LDP vote will be followed by a parliamentary vote for prime minister on Sept. 26.
The new premier will inherit a Japan in transition. Koizumi has greatly expanded diplomatic and military cooperation with the US, and has set in motion efforts -- such as revising the pacifist constitution -- to give his country its most assertive role in world affairs since World War II.
Abe also said he would make Japan's economy more international in character.
"We must make Japan more open, and stimulate investment from abroad. I will promote measures to increase investment from abroad to two or three times the current levels," Abe said.
Abe pledged to push a more assertive foreign policy and take steps to amend Japan's pacifist Constitution.
It was unclear, however, how Abe's election would affect Tokyo's troubled relations with the rest of Asia, particular China and South Korea. He is a staunch supporter of Yasukuni, though he hasn't said whether he would visit there as prime minister.
Tanigaki, who has criticized Koizumi's Asian diplomacy and opposed the shrine visits, presented himself as the candidate who would repair the country's foreign policy woes.
"I will mend Japan's diplomatic relations with Asia," he said, also vowing to address public concerns about the economy and social security.
Nearly everything appeared to be pointing to Abe's victory.
Abe attracted ?370 million (US$3.19 million) in party donations last year, a 30 percent increase from a year earlier, the Yomiuri Shinbun said, citing growing support for his leadership.
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
CHANGING PERCEPTIONS: In its tender, the Hong Kong administration said that it had failed to ‘mobilise the community to support law enforcement actions’ The Hong Kong government has agreed to pay millions of pounds to a discreet London-based PR firm to counter coverage of the territory in the international media. Consulum, which has also represented Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was on Monday awarded the ￡5 million (US$6.2 million) one-year contract to improve Hong Kong’s reputation — the same day that China passed national security legislation targeting the territory. The Mayfair-based PR business was founded by Tim Ryan and Matthew Gunther Bushell, two former employees of Bell Pottinger, an agency that has been criticized for representing some governments and leaders that other businesses