Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Thursday expressed his hope to stay in office at least until August, despite mounting pressure for him to quit this month from opposition parties and some ruling party lawmakers.
In the meantime, senior Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers said they are considering fielding Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda as a candidate to replace Kan.
Kan, also the leader of the ruling party, survived a no-confidence motion last week by promising to leave office in the near future after making certain progress in containing a nuclear crisis and reconstructing the areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Kan, however, has left the exact timing of his resignation vague.
On Thursday, Kan signaled that he has no immediate plans to leave office, reiterating during a parliamentary session that achieving some progress in dealing with the triple disaster remains important for his administration.
‘‘We are trying to take out rubble from residential areas by the end of August,’’ Kan told a lower house special panel on the rebuilding of the disaster-stricken northeastern region.
Kan, who took office one year ago, reminded the panel that the no-confidence motion in the House of Representatives was voted down by a large majority June 2 after he had said the end of his premiership would come when the prospects for the reconstruction work become bright.
‘‘I will do my job responsibly until then,’’ he said.
A tug-of-war continues over when Kan should resign between the DPJ and the opposition bloc, led by the Liberal Democratic Party.
LDP leader Sadakazu Tanigaki said that Kan must leave immediately after the enactment of a bill outlining the rebuilding of the northeastern region, which is expected June 17.
LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara also said on a radio program Thursday that ‘‘nothing will move on’’ if Kan does not quit ‘‘by the end of June or early July.’‘
The idea of nominating 54-year-old Noda, a proponent of raising taxes to restore Japan’s tattered public finances, is being considered by DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano and other party executives.
The party leadership is considering appointing Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, 65, as Okada’s successor if Noda becomes a new head of the party, according to the lawmakers.
In connection with the DPJ’s future, Okada said that a meeting of all its parliamentarians may be held as early as next week.
Sengoku, also DPJ acting president, is now one of the most powerful lawmakers in the ruling party. He has ties with some LDP heavyweights who are willing to form a grand coalition with the DPJ after Kan’s departure.
Noda, who took over from Kan as finance minister on June 8, 2010, is said to be positive about contending in the race to become the next DPJ president.
The lawmakers believe that Noda should be Kan’s successor as the issue of how to secure enough funds to reconstruct the devastated region amid fiscal constraints is the highest priority for Japan, in addition to the importance of realizing the early Diet passage of a bill needed for the government to issue deficit-covering bonds in fiscal 2011.
Former Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa, 57, and Shinji Tarutoko, 51, who was the DPJ’s Diet affairs chief last year, are also considering running, according to the party lawmakers.
In addition, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, 49, farm minister Michihiko Kano, 69, and Sumio Mabuchi, a 50-year-old special adviser to Kan, have been floated as among the possible successors.
Some top lawmakers of the DPJ are already making arrangements to hold the presidential election in early July.
In exchange for Kan’s early resignation, they are hoping to win cooperation from the LDP on the enactment of the bill that is needed to secure about 40 percent of the revenue planned in the 92.41 trillion yen budget for the year started in April.
Due to the limited time, it is likely that the leadership election will be restricted to the DPJ’s 407 lawmakers, not including rank-and-file supporters of the party, even if it is not organized in July.