Ishiba won't bid for LDP leadership, backs Kono

A former secretary-general of Japan's main ruling Liberal Democratic Party says he will not run in the upcoming party leadership race that will effectively choose the country's next prime minister.

Ishiba Shigeru said on Wednesday he will not make a bid for the LDP presidency, and will instead back Regulatory Reform Minister Kono Taro.

On Monday, Kono visited Ishiba and sought his cooperation in uniting the party.

Ishiba told reporters that forces aiming for reform must not be divided in order to fulfill people's calls to change the LDP and the country's politics.

Ishiba has run for the leadership four times in the past and gained strong support from rank-and-file party members.

But this time, most lawmakers in his faction were cautious about his candidacy.

Ishiba added that his faction members will be free to vote for a candidate of their choice.

The campaign is scheduled to officially kick off on Friday. The new leader will be announced on the 29th.