Nukaga decides not to run in LDP presidential race

by Hiroko Nakata and Masami Ito

Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga said Friday that he would not enter the race for Liberal Democratic Party president, confirming earlier reports that he would not run.

“I have decided not to become a candidate for the election,” Nukaga told reporters after meeting with former health minister Yuji Tsushima — the head of his faction — and faction heavyweight Mikio Aoki, chairman of the LDP’s Upper House caucus. The faction is the second-largest in the LDP.

“I have not had enough time to think over and prepare for the election,” Nukaga said.

The decision reinforces speculation that Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, widely considered the front-runner although he has not yet declared, will win in a landslide victory and hence become the next prime minister.

Nukaga said he also opted not to run because he is too busy focusing on various defense issues, including the U.S. military realignment in Japan, the Self-Defense Forces exit from Iraq, and the North Korean missile launches.

It is widely believed, however, that Nukaga decided to drop out because much of his faction is in fact leaning toward Abe.