Japan's popular vaccine minister Kono enters race for next leader
Japan's popular coronavirus vaccination minister, Taro Kono, announced his candidacy on Friday (Sept. 10) to lead the ruling party and, by extension, become the next prime minister, highlighting his image as an outspoken reformer with a conservative streak.
Kono becomes the third candidate to throw his hat in the ring for the leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which opened up last week when Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he would step down.
Kono appears to have an edge over former foreign minister Fumio Kishida and former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi in the race.
Nearly a third of respondents in a poll by major domestic media last week said the Georgetown University-educated Kono, 58, was the most suitable to succeed Suga.
"I will run in the race for LDP leader," said Kono, adding he would be an empathetic leader who "laughs and cries together" with the Japanese people, and would aim to create a "warm" country where everyone who worked hard had a chance to succeed.
Previously known as a strong critic of nuclear energy, Kono sounded a more cautious tone in a two-page policy brief handed to reporters gathered to hear him declare his candidacy.
"We will carry out a realistic energy policy which will be reassuring for industry," said the paper, which also highlighted the importance of promoting digitalisation and green technologies.