• Kyodo


Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba indicated Tuesday that he would support Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s re-election as president of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Ishiba belongs to the LDP’s largest faction, led by former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, whose members are split over whom to support in the Sept. 20 party leadership vote.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing, where was he visiting, Ishiba said: “I am a Cabinet member before I am a member of the faction. I am responsible for national security policy.”

Ishiba said opposing Koizumi’s re-election as party chief “amounts to self-negation.”

“I cannot say I support (Koizumi’s) national security policies but not his economic policies.”

In Tokyo, trade minister Takeo Hiranuma, who is a member of another anti-Koizumi faction, indicated that he supports the prime minister’s structural reform initiatives.

Hiranuma, who belongs the LDP faction led by veteran lawmaker Takami Eto, made the remark Tuesday in a meeting of the government’s Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, according to one of the participants.

Former LDP policy chief Shizuka Kamei, who is also in the Eto faction, has already announced plans to challenge Koizumi in the race.

Kamei is one of the foremost critics of Koizumi’s economic policies.

In a separate news conference, Hiranuma said he told Kamei that he cannot join him in criticizing the prime minister’s economic management.

“I told him that although I hope to support him (in the party race), as a Cabinet minister in charge of economic policies I cannot criticize the Koizumi administration like him,” Hiranuma said. “I personally hope Mr. Kamei will do his best and explain his beliefs to the public.”

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