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DPJ in debate whether to expel ex-PM Kan for supporting independent


The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan discussed on Wednesday whether to expel former Prime Minister Naoto Kan after he supported an independent candidate in Sunday's upper house election in violation of party policy, but the party failed to come up with a conclusion.

DPJ leader Banri Kaieda made a proposal to expel the former prime minister at a meeting of the party's executive members, but some members opposed the proposal, saying it would be "too severe" a punishment to strip the former prime minister of party membership, according to DPJ sources.

The meeting came after Kaieda tried to persuade Kan to leave during their meeting at a Tokyo hotel earlier in the day.

The party is expected to discuss the matter again after Kaieda makes a fresh proposal within a day or two, the sources said.

Kan, who headed the DPJ and is now a supreme advisor, acknowledged at the meeting he had "caused trouble" to the party but said he "has no intention of leaving voluntarily." He also said he will obey the party's decision once it is made.

In Sunday's House of Councillors election, the DPJ fielded only one candidate in the crucial Tokyo constituency after revoking its endorsement of another candidate only two days before official campaigning kicked off July 4 due to the slim likelihood of securing two seats in the capital.

But Kan opposed the decision and backed Masako Okawara, who ran as an independent after losing the DPJ's endorsement. Neither she nor Kan Suzuki, the DPJ's sole candidate in Tokyo, won a seat, prompting the DPJ's Tokyo chapter to seek punishment for Kan who stepped down as prime minister in 2011 amid criticism over his handling of the nuclear crisis at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

With only 17 seats secured, the lowest on record since its founding in 1998, the DPJ has been in disarray since the election gave Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party a vote of confidence for his economic policy prescriptions dubbed "Abenomics."

"We take the outcome seriously, and continue to work hard so our party can be rebuilt step by step," Kaieda told the executives during the meeting on Wednesday, a day after DPJ Secretary General Goshi Hosono announced his intention to step down in August to take the blame.

Some within the party are calling for an early election to pick a new leader to mark a fresh start, but Kaieda said he will "decide on whether to resign" by himself.

In yet another tough development for the DPJ, which held power from 2009 to 2011, the party decided to lodge a formal protest with former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who does not have party membership, for his repeated remarks interpreted as siding with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Hatoyama said in an interview with Hong Kong's Phoenix Television in June that it was unavoidable for China to state that Japan had stolen the uninhabited islands, administered by Japan but claimed by China.

His claim runs contrary to Tokyo's repeated stance that there is no territorial dispute over the Senkakus, which Japan considers an inherent part of its territory in terms of history and international law.

But Hatoyama told Kyodo News on Wednesday that there is "only one fact in history," adding, "I'm just making my argument based on the fact."