Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Aso has announced that he plans to run to succeed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi when his term ends in September.
Aso is the first candidate to publicly announce his intention to run, but he is expected to face stiff competition from Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, who is also expected to run.
Mr. Koizumi has repeatedly said he does not plan to run for re-election.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party will vote internally in September for the next prime minister.
Since his appointment last year, Aso has angered several Asian countries, including China, over a series of remarks made about a war shrine dispute.
The Yasukuni war shrine in Japan honors Japan's war dead, including convicted World War II criminals.
Mr. Koizumi has visited the shrine several times since taking office, and both China and South Korea have condemned the visits as glorifying Japan's wartime past.
Mr. Koizumi says he visits the shrine to pray for peace.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.