• Jiji

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All three candidates in the race to pick the next leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who will subsequently be elected the country’s new prime minister have voiced support for revising Japan’s pacifist Constitution.

Meanwhile, the three prime minister hopefuls differed on whether to succeed the economic and national security policies of the administration of outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, 63, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, 71, and LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida, 63, officially kicked off the race Tuesday, when they filed their candidacies and attended a joint debate and news conference.

Ishiba said that the LDP “should return to” its 2012 constitutional revision draft, which was drawn up by party members including himself. He also proposed that a clause on political parties be added to the Constitution in order to make parties’ decision-making processes and flows of their funds more transparent.

“Our party should lead discussions and work on constitutional revision as early as possible,” he said.

Suga said that he will seek to revise the Constitution based on the four items for amendment proposed by the LDP in 2018, including one for clarifying the existence of the Self-Defense Forces in war-renouncing Article 9. He voiced hopes for discussions to be held at the commissions on the Constitution at both chambers of the Diet.

Kishida also said he will push for discussions centered around the four items, saying, “Increasing opportunities for members of the public to thoroughly think about constitutional revision is the proper way.”

The LDP presidential election is scheduled for Monday. The new LDP president will certainly be chosen as prime minister in an election at the Diet on Sept. 16, thanks to the party’s comfortable majority in the House of Representatives. Abe late last month announced a decision to step down as prime minister due to ill health.

Suga presented himself as the continuity candidate for Abenomics, the economic policy mix of the outgoing prime minister, touting its success in increasing jobs and raising land prices.

In addition to supporting the tourism industry, which has been hit hard by the novel coronavirus epidemic, through the government-led Go To Travel tourism promotion campaign launched in July, he called for the establishment of a government agency dedicated to digitizing administrative procedures.

Kishida agreed with Suga regarding the success of Abenomics, but said, “A different person will be in charge from now on.”

He called for a shift to policies focusing on wealth redistribution and correction of economic disparities.

Ishiba said that Abenomics was insufficient in utilizing the potential of primary industries, small businesses and female workers, and urged a boost in efforts to revitalize regional areas.

Suga showed his plan to continue Abe’s security and foreign policies, mentioning key phrases from the Abe administration, such as “the Japan-U.S. alliance as an axis of diplomacy,” “a free and open Indo-Pacific” and “total settlement of postwar diplomacy.”

He also pledged to continue working on issues left unresolved by Abe, such as North Korea’s abductions of Japanese people decades ago and ballistic missile defense.

Ishiba expressed concern over Abe’s willingness to allow Japan to acquire strike capability against enemy bases, saying, “It is extremely dangerous for the discussion (on the matter) to go on without a debate on its relation to the Japan-U.S. security alliance.”

Kishida said that it is significant for the topic to be discussed. But he took a cautious tone, saying, “There are many complicated issues, and many points must be thoroughly worked out legally and technologically.”

Suga said only that he will think about the issue of enemy base attack capabilities while keeping a close watch on discussions in the ruling bloc.

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