Japan PM Kan to step down by August: report

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan will step down by August if not earlier due to growing calls from the opposition and within his own ruling party to resign as quickly as possible, Kyodo news agency reported on Saturday.

Kyodo said that Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, a fiscal hawk, and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, who has advocated a coalition with the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to break a parliamentary deadlock, were possible candidates to replace Kan.

Kan, already Japan’s fifth premier in as many years, is struggling to contain a nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima plant and find ways to pay for rebuilding after a massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Kan survived a no-confidence motion in parliament on Thursday after a last-minute offer to resign persuaded some ruling party lawmakers not to defect and drive him from office.

But Kan later hinted that he might seek to stay in power through at least January, angering many in the ruling Democratic Party who had voted down the motion under the assumption he would quit much sooner. The opposition, which controls parliament’s upper house and can block bills, are also refusing to cooperate with Kan’s government in enacting key legislation.

The deal to resign later had appeared to buy Kan time to prepare an extra budget to pay for reconstruction of the tsunami-devastated northeast and focus on the nuclear crisis.

In a voter poll by Kyodo news agency on Thursday and Friday, Kan’s support rate rose to 33 percent from 28 percent in May.

But bickering quickly resurfaced after Kan’s comments at a late-night news conference suggested he wanted to stay on until damaged reactors at the disabled nuclear plant achieved a stable “cold shutdown,” a process expected to take at least until January and probably longer.

One of Kan’s own cabinet ministers said on Friday that the premier should be replaced by the end of this month.