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Abe hints he will decide on whether to run in LDP presidential race in summer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offers a prayer in front of his family grave in Nagato, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Jan. 7, 2018. (Mainichi)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggested he will decide how he will respond to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election -- which is scheduled for September -- sometime during summer.

"I'll think about that after the (regular) Diet session is over and the buzzing of cicadas can be heard," Abe told an NHK program aired on Jan. 7. The program was filmed the previous day.

As to how the Abe government will respond to this year's regular Diet session that lasts until June 20, the prime minister said, "First and foremost, we'll concentrate on implementing what we promised during our campaign for the (October 2017 House of Representatives) election."

Prime Minister Abe highly appreciated the work of Bank of Japan (BOJ) Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda, whose term ends in April, saying the central bank chief "has responded to the expectations" of the government and the general public.

While stressing the appointment of the next BOJ governor has not been decided at all, the prime minister said, "I'd like Mr. Kuroda to continue to do his job."

Abe's remarks are likely to spur speculation that Kuroda will stay on as governor of the central bank.

With regard to the agreement between South and North Korea to hold inter-governmental talks, Prime Minister Abe said, "I'd like to appreciate North Korea's display of its readiness to cooperate with the South toward the Pyeongchang Olympics."

At the same time, Abe warned South Korea not to make any easy concessions with the North over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and missile development.

"The dialogue would be meaningful only if it is accompanied by concrete action," he said.

The prime minister said the government will decide a new era name, which will be introduced after Emperor Akihito abdicates on April 30, 2019 and Crown Prince Naruhito accedes to the Imperial Throne the following day, in accordance with precedent. Abe then said he will decide on the timing of announcing the new era name while giving sufficient consideration to its impact on people's lives.

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