Former Japanese defense chief Shigeru Ishiba, the most popular choice to win this month’s race to head the main opposition party, said the government must step up its control of islands claimed by China by building on them.
Ishiba, former head of policy research for the Liberal Democratic Party, said in an interview today that Japan should build a harbor to offer shelter for fishing vessels and station personnel there if necessary. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government is in talks to buy the chain, called Senkaku in Japanese and Daioyu in China, from a private Japanese owner.
“I don’t think it’s right for the country to buy them and leave them as they are,” Ishiba said. “We should raise our level of control over the islands.”
Relations between Asia’s two biggest economies have soured over the islands, sparking anti-Japanese protests and imperiling a meeting this weekend between Noda and Chinese President Hu Jintao. While Noda has called for calm in dealing with the issue, the LDP is seeking to unseat his ruling Democratic Party of Japan in elections that could come as soon as next month.
Ishiba, 55, signaled he will run in the LDP’s leadership contest on Sept. 26. The party will meet to decide whether to keep Sadakazu Tanigaki as its standard-bearer ahead of national elections Noda has pledged to call “soon.” Polls show low approval ratings for both parties.
“I believe I have a responsibility to respond to the expectations of me,” Ishiba said, when asked whether he planned to run. A poll published last week by Kyodo News showed 25.5 percent of respondents favored him as the next LDP leader, compared with 9.2 percent who supported Tanigaki. Only LDP lawmakers and party representatives can vote in the contest.
Ishiba said he supported Noda’s legislation to double the five percent sales tax by October 2015, an issue that split the ruling party. Noda pushed the bill through both houses of parliament with the help of the LDP, calling it necessary to address the country’s soaring debt.
The former defense chief also called for closer cooperation between the government and the Bank of Japan (8301) to reverse more than a decade of deflation, and said the law governing the central bank should be changed to allow more political influence.
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