Japanese former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda and Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Secretary General Taro Aso, the only two candidates for the ruling party's presidency, introduced similar policy platforms on Saturday at a joint press conference held at the party's headquarters.
Both of them agreed, though through different methods, on seeking the extension of the special anti-terrorism law to legitimize the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling for U.S. vessels in the Indian Ocean.
Difficulties in seeking the opposition camp's agreement on extending the law were cited by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday as the major reason behind his decision to resign.
The two both vowed to push forward structural reforms introduced by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and agreed that certain adjustments should be made to guarantee that reforms benefit all.
They both mentioned the need to build a healthy and safe record- keeping institution in the public pension system to win back the public's trust in the ruling party.
The loss of about 50 million pension records by the Social Insurance Agency under the Abe Cabinet enraged people all across the country.
They also stressed the prospective consumption tax hike in the future for welfare purposes to help fund the planned increase in the government's burden in coping with the pension program.
Although Fukuda and Aso shared similar views on almost all issues discussed, they expressed different opinions on how to deal with the war-related Yasukuni shrine.
Fukuda proposed the construction of a secular national memorial facility to commemorate the war dead. When he formally announced his candidacy earlier in the day, he pledged not to visit the controversial shrine if elected.
"There is no need to do things that others hate," he was quoted by Kyodo News as saying.
Hawkish Aso stressed in his policy platform that a new facility can not replace Yasukuni. However, he did not mention whether he will pay visit to the shrine if elected.
Fukuda is one of the most Asia-friendly Japanese politicians and has close ties with China. He proposed the construction of a surrogate national war memorial facility during his time serving as chief Cabinet secretary in Junichiro Koizumi's Cabinet.
The Yasukuni shrine, regarded as a symbol of the Japanese militarism, honors more than 2 million Japanese war dead along with 14 Japan's wartime leaders charged as Class-A war criminals, who were responsible for the most atrocious crimes during Japan's war of aggression against its Asian neighbors.
The two candidates' policy platforms also differed on how to cope with the issue of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's past abductions of Japanese nationals. While Fukuda called for a flexible stance, Aso insisted that to maintain pressure is the appropriate way.
Fukuda and Aso filed their candidacies for the party presidency in the morning. It is currently a general estimate of Japanese media that Fukuda is set to win in the duel to succeed Abe since eight out of all nine LDP factions have extended their support for the seasoned politician.
The two will hold a policy debate on Sunday and carry out street campaign in Tokyo and other major cities during the following days.
The LDP decided on Thursday to hold the presidential election on Sept. 23 to pick a new president to replace Abe. The LDP president will be naturally appointed prime minister since the party enjoys the majority in the House of Representatives, which holds the decisive power in the Diet.