Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday he will follow in former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's footsteps on North Korea policy. File Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA-EFE
Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Japanese politician Yoshihide Suga says he would meet North Korea's Kim Jong Un without preconditions in the event he is elected prime minister by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Suga, Tokyo's chief cabinet secretary and spokesman for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is running for office, which will be determined among ruling party lawmakers, NHK and the Nikkei reported Wednesday.
During a press conference Suga said a "political void should never be allowed to happen at a time of national crisis."
Japan continues to struggle with the spread of COVID-19, and the future of the Tokyo Olympics remains uncertain. Relations with South Korea have soured, and China continues to threaten Japanese claims in the East China Sea.
Tokyo has also remained wary of an uncooperative North Korea, but Suga suggested Wednesday he will follow in Abe's footsteps.
"We must do everything to solve the problem," Suga said, referring to the issue of Japanese citizens abducted to North Korea.
Suga also said he will open the way to "meet Kim Jong Un without preconditions."
"We will cultivate relations with neighboring countries based on the foundation of the U.S.-Japan alliance."
Suga so far is the party's favorite for prime minister. Among the seven major factions of the LDP, Suga has the support of five out of the seven groups. With roughly 70 percent of support from ruling party lawmakers, Suga's election as prime minister is guaranteed, Jiji Press reported.
If Suga is elected on Sept. 14, he will serve the remainder of Abe's term, or until September 2021. Abe was Japan's longest serving prime minister after World War II. He also received significant criticism for his handling of the coronavirus and political scandals that involved the illicit sale of public land.
Abe resigned last month, citing health reasons.