Political commentators are busy reading their tea leaves, trying to guess where the next prime minister will go for his first overseas trip and what it might portend for Japan’s foreign policy.

Junichiro Koizumi, in office since April 2001, will step down as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party leader and prime minister following a party election scheduled for Sept. 20. He will be succeeded by Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, Foreign Minister Taro Aso or Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki. Abe is the heavy favorite.

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