Japan's Ishiba considers backing vaccine minister Kono in leader race - media

FILE PHOTO: Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership candidate and former Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba attends a debate for the LDP leadership election in Tokyo, Japan September 12, 2020. Charly Triballeau/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba is considering backing vaccination minister Taro Kono in the race for the leader of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), broadcaster TV Asahi said on Monday, without citing sources.

Ishiba is popular among the LDP's grassroots members. After Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Friday he would step down, Ishiba said he would be ready to take on the job "if conditions were right https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japan-ldps-ishiba-says-he-is-ready-take-premiers-job-if-conditions-are-right-2021-09-03".

But TV Asahi said on Monday that, as he was considering backing Kono, Ishiba was preparing to not run in the Sept. 29 contest himself, significantly increasing Kono's chances of clinching the top job and most likely replace Suga as premier.

(Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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