Former Foreign Minister Kiichi Miyazawa on Sunday appeared to win an endorsement giving him an edge over two rivals in a bid to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu.
Shin Kanemaru, 77, a kingmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told supporters that the party's largest faction, of which he is the titular head, should get behind a candidate who is well versed in foreign affairs.
Kanemaru, who heads the ruling party faction loyal to former Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita, 57, did not mention Miyazawa by name. But of the three factional bosses who declared their candidacies Saturday, Miyazawa is rated by far the most sophisticated in foreign affairs.
In a meeting this morning, however, 16 Takeshita faction leaders were reported unable to reach a conclusion as to whom the faction should support. Younger members of the faction were insisting that the group field its own candidate.
A meeting of the entire 105-member faction was convened at noon today.
Although Miyazawa, leader of the party's third-largest faction, is disliked within the ruling party for what some see as elitist attitudes, he is seen by the Japanese business community as a skilled economic policy-maker.
Miyazawa's American contacts date to the post-World War II occupation of Japan when, as a Finance Ministry bureaucrat, he served as a liaison officer with U.S. officials. And he has served as both foreign and finance minister. He will turn 72 on Tuesday.
Kanemaru met over dinner Sunday night with Takeshita and Ichiro Ozawa, 49, a former secretary general of the ruling party. On both Friday and Saturday, Kanemaru asked Ozawa to run for party president, a post that carries with it the premiership. However, Ozawa, who spent a month and a half in a hospital for treatment of heart trouble last summer, rejected both entreaties.
None of the three leaders of the Takeshita faction, whose choice has become prime minister in each of the last seven leadership changes, revealed the contents of their discussion.
Hiroshi Mitsuzuka, 64, who last June assumed leadership of his faction, the party's second largest, and Michio Watanabe, 68, leader of the fourth-largest faction, also joined the race Saturday after Kaifu said he would refrain from seeking a second term.