PROFILE-Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan

Position: Prime Minister, Japan

Incumbent: Naoto Kan, 63

Term: Took office in June 2010 after predecessor, Yukio
Hatoyama, resigned. To remain in office, Kan needs to win the
ruling Democratic Party’s leadership election in September,
where he may face a challenge from party powerbroker Ichiro

Key Facts:

— Having seen Greece’s debt crisis, Kan, the fifth
Japanese premier in three years, became one of the country’s
most vocal proponents of fiscal reform, and floated a possible
doubling of the 5 percent sales tax to mend the nation’s
tattered finances.

— Kan’s proposal for a cross-party debate on tax reform,
however, was an important factor when his party and its tiny
ally, the People’s New Party, lost a combined upper house
majority in an election in July, threatening political deadlock
and putting his job at risk.

— He faces the difficult task of reining in Japan’s
massive public debt, nearly twice the size of its $5 trillion
economy, while engineering growth in a rapidly aging
society and finding new allies to pass bills smoothly.

— A critic of the Bank of Japan when it was reluctant to
ease monetary policy, Kan toned down his criticism after the
central bank took steps to boost the economy, but might turn up
the heat quickly if the economy takes a turn for the worse. Kan
is widely regarded by currency traders as favoring a weaker

— On the diplomatic and security front, he is tasked with
coping with unpredictable North Korea and rising China, while
mending its ties with security ally Washington, hurt by a
dispute over where to relocate a U.S. airbase in Okinawa.

— Known for sharp debating skills and a short temper, Kan
shot to fame as health minister in 1996, when he battled
bureaucrats and spearheaded a campaign to unveil a scandal over
HIV-tainted blood products. In the same year, he founded the
Democratic Party with Hatoyama.

— Unlike many recent Japanese premiers, including
Hatoyama, the grandson of a prime minister and son of a foreign
minister, Kan does not hail from a political dynasty.

— The son of an engineer, Kan began his career as a
grass-roots activist after graduating in 1970 from Tokyo
Institute of Technology. He led an election campaign for a
prominent feminist lawmaker before seeking a seat in
parliament. He lost three times before winning a seat for a
small, leftist party.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Jerry Norton)

PROFILE-Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan