Candidates for Japan's next PM: Conservative Aso against dovish Fukuda

September 15, 2007 06:17

An election to replace Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will pit a conservative who has alienated Japan's Asian neighbors against a liberal seeking to make amends with them. Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party announced Saturday that dovish Yasuo Fukuda and conservative Taro Aso will square off Sept. 23 for the party's presidency - a post that assures selection as prime minister, party election chief Hideo Usui told reporters. Fukuda, a critic of Abe's government who favors closer relations with Japan's Asian neighbors, told reporters Saturday he would stay away from a contentious war shrine - vilified by China for its close links to Japanese wartime militarism - if he becomes prime minister. Abe announced suddenly this week he was quitting, and then was hospitalized for exhaustion and stress-related stomach problems.

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