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The four candidates for the presidency of the governing Liberal Democratic Party each appeared positive Saturday about the possibility of revising the war-renouncing Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution.

Speaking on a morning TV show, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who is seeking re-election as LDP leader in the Sept. 20 party poll, and the three challengers said Article 9 should be amended because it is too vague.

They agreed it “should be revised in the future.”

The prime minister declined to comment on exactly when the government would start work on rewriting Article 9, but said the party is seeking to draft a proposal for the change in 2005, to mark the 50th anniversary of the party’s establishment.

Shizuka Kamei, the leading challenger in the race and a former chairman of the LDP’s Policy Research Council, said the text of the article should be reworded so people can understand it more easily. Kamei pointed out that there are 23 interpretations of the article.

Masahiko Komura, a former foreign minister and justice minister, and Takao Fujii, a former transport minister, said the roles of the Self-Defense Forces should be stipulated in a revised constitution.

Article 9 renounces war and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes. It says land, air and sea forces “will never be maintained” by Japan.

But Japan has the Self-Defense Forces, long a source of controversy among politicians and legal experts who ask whether their existence, intended solely for defense, is legitimate.

Kamei and Fujii also said a revised constitution should stipulate Japan’s defense-only policy in an apparent bid to avoid misunderstandings with neighboring Asian countries, which suffered under Japanese aggression during World War II and might worry that Japan is returning to militarism.

Koizumi well ahead Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is well ahead of the three other candidates for the presidency of the governing Liberal Democratic Party in the latest poll, a Japanese newspaper reported Saturday.

The Sankei Shimbun poll of 1,000 people showed 58.9 percent favor Koizumi’s re-election bid, while former LDP policy chief Shizuka Kamei came in second — but with a paltry 7 percent.

Masahiko Komura, a former foreign minister, ranked third with 6.7 percent, while Takao Fujinami, a former transport minister, came last with 2 percent.

The survey, conducted for three days through Thursday jointly with Fuji News Network, indicates Koizumi’s Cabinet received support from 57 percent of the public, up a sharp 16 percentage points from the previous poll in March. Those who do not support his Cabinet dropped 12.6 points to 29.1 percent