Japan needs to let its coast guard work smoothly with self-defense forces, in the face of assertiveness by giant neighbor China, former Japanese minister of foreign affairs Fumio Kishida, a contender to head the ruling party, and so become the next prime minister, said yesterday.
Only lawmakers and grassroots members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are to vote for the party’s president in a Sept. 29 election, but candidates’ popularity with the public counts, as the winner would lead it into general elections this year.
“The security environment around Japan is getting tougher,” Kishida told a news conference. “We need to strive to ensure maritime safety through such measures as bolstering coast guard capability and allowing them to work with the Self-Defence Forces.”
Acquiring the capability to strike enemy targets was one option, Kishida said, adding that he would not blindly adhere to holding defense spending below 1 percent of Japan’s GDP if necessary to protect citizens.
In a surprise announcement this month, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that he would step down, ending a one-year term in which his support crumbled as COVID-19 infections surged.
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 freedom, saying that, if elected, he would appoint a prime ministerial aide to monitor China’s treatment of its Uighur ethnic minority.
“Through cooperation with countries with which Japan shares universal values, I would raise high the torch of freedom and democracy,” he said.
In weekend opinion polls on the choice of successor to Suga as head of the party, Japanese Minister for Administrative Reform and Regulatory Reform Taro Kono, who is in charge of overseeing the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination program, emerged as the favored candidate.
He was chosen by 33 percent of respondents in a weekend survey by the Asahi daily, followed by 16 percent for former Japanese minister of defense Shigeru Ishiba and 14 percent for Kishida.
Fifty-eight percent of respondents said that the next LDP leader should not take over the policies of Suga and Shinzo Abe, who preceded Suga.
A similar poll by the Nikkei business daily also put Kono ahead, backed by 27 percent of respondents, with 17 percent for Ishiba and 14 percent for Kishida.
Kono and Kishida have declared their candidacy for the top party post, while Ishiba has not revealed his intentions.
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