• Jiji, Kyodo

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Fumio Kishida, who will run for president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, has suggested that if elected prime minister he would consider revising the Self-Defense Forces law to ease the way for the overseas dispatch of the SDF on an evacuation mission.

Appearing on a television program on Sunday, Kishida, former policy chief of the LDP and former foreign minister, said the government should reflect on the SDF’s failure to evacuate local staff members of the Japanese Embassy in Kabul from the strife-torn country.

“There is a question from the standpoint of the popular sentiment about the requirement of confirming local safety before SDF troops are dispatched (overseas),” Kishida said.

The SDF law allows the SDF to airlift Japanese nationals and others in times of emergency overseas on the condition that the transportation mission can be conducted safely.

Last week, the SDF was ordered to end a mission to evacuate Japanese citizens and others from Afghanistan. The government found it difficult to continue the mission as safety was no longer guaranteed after the U.S. military withdrew from the country, where the Taliban have taken control.

Kishida also said the government’s leadership role should be clarified in order to resolve the shortage of hospital beds for people infected with the coronavirus.

He mentioned the possibility of amending a law to enable the government to order medical institutions to secure beds for COVID-19 patients.

“We should consider whether stronger response capability is needed, whether a law revision is needed,” he said.

Appearing on another television program on Monday, Kishida also said Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had been “too optimistic” in his response to the COVID-19 crisis, pointing out that the prime minister was late in dealing with changes such as the emergence of the highly contagious delta variant.

“I will listen to people’s voices and fight in the leadership race to regain people’s confidence in politics,” he said.

In addition, Kishida said that if he becomes prime minister, he would present the public with additional economic stimulus measures before entering the next election for the House of Representatives, which needs to be held by autumn.

Kishida has announced that he will run in the coming LDP presidential race, slated for Sept. 29. Suga has decided to bow out after only a year in office.

Other potential candidates in the LDP leadership race are also stepping up their efforts to secure support from their fellow lawmakers.

Taro Kono, the regulatory reform minister who also serves as the minister in charge of the vaccine rollout, is the top pick among the public in opinion polls.

While some young and middle-ranking lawmakers in the party are voicing support for Kono, some party elders have been reluctant to back him, sources said. Kono belongs to a faction led by Finance Minister Taro Aso, but not all in the faction are supportive, they added.

Former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi, who has secured backing from former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is believed to have obtained the recommendations from 20 party members needed for candidacy in the election.

Former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba has also expressed eagerness to run in the race.

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