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Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010

Okada backs Kan, rules out run for DPJ chief


Staff writer

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada reiterated Wednesday that he would support the re-election of Prime Minister Naoto Kan in the Sept. 14 Democratic Party of Japan presidential election.

News photo
Passage to India: Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada waits at Tokyo's Haneda airport Aug. 20 for a flight to India. KYODO PHOTO

"We just chose Prime Minister Kan a few months ago and he is just now getting started to work," Okada said at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo. "I personally feel it is desirable for Prime Minister Kan to stay on so that he will be able to adequately fulfill his responsibilities."

Okada's comments came amid speculation that the former DPJ leader, Ichiro Ozawa, who stepped down as the party's secretary general in June over a political funds scandal, may take on Kan in the DPJ presidential poll, campaigning for which officially kicks off Sept. 1.

"Anyone who meets the requirements is eligible to run," Okada said. "I don't think it is possible or appropriate to ask someone not to run."

Okada himself has been named as a possible candidate for DPJ president a number of times, but he said he would focus on his current post for now. Since the party landed a solid majority in last August's Lower House election, its president presumably would also become prime minister.

"I am currently serving as foreign minister and would like to devote all of my energies to performing my duties," Okada said. "I honestly want to do my best at my current job and what I will do in the future remains to be seen."

The end of August is the deadline for Japanese and U.S. experts to finish working out technical details regarding the contentious relocation of the Futenma base in Okinawa based on an agreement signed in May. The accord to move Futenma to Henoko, farther north on Okinawa Island, has been facing fierce local opposition.

"The Japanese government is in the process of carefully figuring out how to realize the Japan-U.S. agreement to relocate Futenma to Henoko," Okada said. But "of course, we cannot do this without the understanding of the Okinawan people."

Aug. 30 will mark the one-year anniversary of the DPJ's historic victory in the Lower House election that knocked the ruling Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito coalition off its throne.

Okada stressed that he has put special efforts toward nuclear nonproliferation over the last year and denied that Japan's reliance on the U.S. nuclear umbrella counters this goal.

"There is absolutely no contradiction over Japan being protected under the nuclear umbrella of the U.S. and aiming for a world without nuclear weapons in the future," Okada said, adding that Japan may aim for a nonnuclear world but it nonetheless faces nuclear threats and hence its reliance on the U.S. deterrence poses no conflict.



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