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Japan LDP's Ishiba calls for decentralization, closer ties with Asia

Shigeru Ishiba, a former secretary general of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, speaks before having his haircut in a parliament building in Tokyo on Sept. 4, 2020. Ishiba has declared his candidacy in the Sept. 14 LDP presidential election to choose Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's successor. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba said Friday he would facilitate decentralization and ties with Asian neighbors if chosen as the successor to outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as he prepares for the upcoming leadership race of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

    The 63-year-old formally set out his policies for the first time since he declared his candidacy in the Sept. 14 election to choose the new LDP leader and effectively the country's new prime minister as the ruling party controls the powerful lower house. Abe said last week he would resign citing health reasons.

    "I would like to give it my all in discussing (the policies) so it would lead to how the LDP and Japan should be," Ishiba said at a press conference.

    The election is expected to be a three-way battle among Ishiba, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida when official campaigning begins on Tuesday.

    Ishiba, known to be more popular among rank-and-file members than among parliamentary members, is seen as facing a tough race as the LDP decided to hold a scaled-down election which better reflects support from parliamentarians. Suga, 71, has garnered support from the major party factions.

    Ishiba said he would introduce remote medical services and promote the use of self-driving vehicles and drones in rural areas to help the lives of older people there, as he puts the need to revive rural areas as a pillar of his policies.

    He said he would seek to realize the relocation of 3 million people to rural areas by around 2050.

    Ishiba said he would "sincerely face Asia and history" as his basic diplomatic policy, and seek to build relationships of trust with China, South Korea and North Korea in the face of history-related disputes.

    With regard to possible amendment of the country's pacifist Constitution, Ishiba called for discussions based on a draft amendment created by the party in 2012 seeking to scrap part of war-renouncing Article 9, which, if read literally, prohibits Japan from possessing military forces and other "war potential."

    Among other his policies outlined Friday are setting up a disaster management ministry and an organization for handling infectious diseases.

    Suga, meanwhile, said he intends to carry on Abe's policies including the signature "Abenomics" economic policy package. He said he would continue efforts to resolve the issue of abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea during the 1970s and 1980s, and seek a peace treaty with Russia.

    Kishida, 63, earlier unveiled his campaign pledges calling for a shift "from division to unity" amid a widening income gap.

    His policies include raising the minimum wage, reducing educational costs. He also called for expanding testing capacity for the new coronavirus and financial support for medical institutions.

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