Yasuo Fukuda, the frontrunner to replace Shinzo Abe as Japanese prime minister said on Sunday that, if elected, he would strengthen ties with China and not visit any war shrines connected to his country's military past. Fukuda made the pledge during a televised head-to-head debate with his rival, Foreign Minister Taro Aso, AFP reported. The September 23 vote is actually to decide who will head the ruling Liberal Democrat Party (LDP). However, as the LDP has a majority in the lower house of parliament, whoever it selects will be waved through. "China is now aiming at a free market economy. They are making an effort. We need to cooperate with them," said Fukuda, 71. The Yasukuni Shrine, which honors war criminals alongside Japan's war dead, was a regular haunt of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, much to Beijing's annoyance.