An election to choose the next leader of Japan's ruling party is getting candidates worked up. The term of current Liberal Democratic Party chief and Prime Minister, Suga Yoshihide, ends this month.
The vote will effectively determine Japan's next prime minister as Suga has decided he will not run.
The campaign period officially kicks off this Friday.
The candidates are former LDP policy chief Kishida Fumio, Regulatory Reform Minister Kono Taro and Former Internal Affairs Minister Takaichi Sanae.
LDP Executive Acting Secretary-General Noda Seiko is also considering a run. She's seeking the backing of 20 party lawmakers -- the minimum required to enter the race.
Former LDP Secretary-General Ishiba Shigeru had been considering his candidacy. Ishiba has run for party leader 4 times in the past.
However, Ishiba met with Kono on Monday, and Kono asked him to help unite the party if he wins the LDP's top spot.
It now appears Ishiba will not run, and will instead back Kono.
On Monday the candidates mentioned national security issues after North Korea announced it had successfully test-fired a new long-range cruise missile.
Kishida said he would consider upgrading the country's missile defense capabilities, including the capacity to attack enemy bases.
Kisihda said, "Regarding the capability to attack enemy bases, I would first like to resolve the balance between the Constitution and preemptive attacks."
Kono said the debate over a "capacity to attack enemy bases" is in the past. He said what should be discussed is the improvement of missile interception capabilities and deterrence.
Kono said, "We will enter an era where we discuss how to enhance deterrence within the Japan-US alliance."
Takaichi said Japan should possess precision guided missiles. She added she will consider legislation to enable cyber-attacks that could neutralize enemy bases.
Takaichi said, "We have to think about realistic ways to react if there's a clear sign of a missile launch."
Election campaigning will officially kick off on Friday, with the new leader to be decided on the 29th of this month.