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Ex-Foreign Minister Kishida not to run in LDP leadership race

Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida announces his intention not to run in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party leadership race in September at a press conference in Tokyo on July 24, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday he will not run in the upcoming Liberal Democratic Party leadership race, but instead will support Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's bid to win another term as LDP president that would make him Japan's longest serving prime minister.

Abe has yet to officially announce his candidacy for the September election. But he is widely favored to win a third term as LDP leader, with his Cabinet support rates showing a recovery trend after dropping amid a spate of scandals.

Kishida, currently the LDP's policy chief, said at a televised press conference, "I've decided that what is appropriate for me to do is to contribute to the handling of various political issues under Prime Minister Abe, and not file my candidacy in the LDP presidential election."

He also said he feels the need to devote his efforts to rebuild areas in western Japan that were devastated by torrential rain earlier in the month and to work on North Korean issues.

Abe, who has enjoyed an unrivaled grip on power since he took office in 2012, was re-elected unopposed for a second term as LDP president in 2015. The leader of the ruling party is typically appointed prime minister.

At a meeting with local assembly members at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo on Tuesday, Abe was quoted as telling them, "I will think hard about my third term."

In the upcoming LDP leadership race, Abe is expected to face off with former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, who challenged Abe in the 2012 LDP leadership election only to be defeated.

"No matter who runs and who does not run, I will speak what I think and seek a judgement," Ishiba told reporters in Gunma Prefecture.

Internal affairs minister Seiko Noda is also among the possible rivals, but she is struggling to win the support of 20 Diet members required to file her candidacy.

If re-elected for a third term as LDP president, Abe is set to pursue his conservative agenda to revise the war-renouncing Constitution, drafted by the U.S.-led occupation forces after World War II.

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