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DPJ's Kan faces pressure to step down after Fukuda's resignation.

TOKYO, May 7 Kyodo

Opposition Democratic Party of Japan President Naoto Kan is facing his biggest crisis since becoming party leader in December 2002 as pressure increased on him Friday to step down over his failure to pay mandatory national pension premiums.

Following top government spokesman Yasuo Fukuda's abrupt resignation Friday over his unpaid pension dues, many DPJ lawmakers are urging Kan to resign as party head, saying his continued tenure will harm the image of the country's main opposition party before the upcoming House of Councillors election in July.

Stressing that his resignation would lead to the breakup of the party, Kan has said he will not step down over his failure to comply with the mandatory payments.

''The party is in serious danger of collapsing. We should not break it apart,'' Kan told a party meeting Friday.

Kan was found to have failed to pay the premiums for 10 months in 1996 when he served as health and welfare minister.

On Friday, Kan's wife Nobuko defended his nonpayments, saying they were just a mistake and not intentional.

Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo, Nobuko explained that she visited a local city government on behalf of her husband to switch his pension program when he became health and welfare minister.

Nobuko said she simply followed the instructions of a city official at the time. ''I'm surprised at seeing this kind of thing.''

Depending on occupational status, people pay into different types of pension schemes in Japan.

On Thursday, the Liberal Democratic Party, the New Komeito party and the DPJ agreed to partly amend the deadlocked pension reform bills.

DPJ executives tried to get approval for the agreement Friday, but they failed because of strong opposition to Kan over his own pension problems.

The executives had to put off seeking this endorsement until sometime next week, DPJ lawmakers said.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:May 10, 2004
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