TOKYO: Japan needs to let its coast guard work smoothly with self-defence forces, in the face of assertiveness by giant neighbour China, Fumio Kishida, a contender to head the ruling party, and so become the next prime minister, said on Monday (Sep 13).
Only lawmakers and grassroots members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will vote for its chief in a Sep 29 election, but candidates' popularity with the public counts, as the winner will lead it into general elections this year.
"The security environment around Japan is getting tougher," Kishida told a news conference.
"We need to strive to ensure maritime safety through such measures as bolstering coast guard capability and allowing them to work with the Self-Defence Forces."
Acquiring the capability to strike enemy targets was one option, Kishida said, adding that he would not blindly adhere to holding defence spending below 1 per cent of Japan's gross domestic product if necessary to protect citizens.
The LDP's dominant position in the lower house of parliament ensures the post of prime minister for its leader.
Kishida stressed the importance of protecting human rights, democracy and freedom, adding that, if elected, he would appoint a prime ministerial aide to monitor China's treatment of its Uyghur ethnic minority.
"Through cooperation with countries with which Japan shares universal values, I would raise high the torch of freedom and democracy," the former foreign minister said.
He was chosen by 33 per cent of respondents in a weekend survey by the Asahi daily, followed by 16 per cent for former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba and 14 per cent for Kishida.
The survey also showed that 58 per cent of respondents believed the next LDP leader should not take over the policies of Suga and Shinzo Abe, who preceded Suga.
A similar poll by the Nikkei business daily also put Kono ahead, backed by 27 per cent of respondents, with 17 per cent for Ishiba and 14 per cent for Kishida.
Kono and Kishida have declared their candidacy for the top party post, while Ishiba has not revealed his intention.