Although the political pageantry to choose the next Liberal Democratic Party president will not officially begin until September, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe’s recent time in the crisis spotlight is giving him a huge lead over other possible candidates to succeed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Political observers agree the North Korean missile launches earlier this month were a big plus for the government’s chief spokesman while Koizumi was on a trip to the Middle East and to the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, until last weekend.

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