After win, Abe prioritises NKorea, ageing Japan

- Associated Press, TOKYO

Oct 24, 2017-

Fresh off a decisive election victory, Japan’s leader pledged on Monday to tackle what he called Japan’s two national crises: the military threat from North Korea and an ageing and shrinking population.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a news conference that he is committed to protecting the Japanese people’s prosperity and peace from any contingency. He also referred to Japanese people who were abducted years ago and are believed to still be held by North Korea.

“I will pursue decisive and strong diplomacy to tackle North Korea’s missile, nuclear and abduction issues and put further pressure to get it to change its policy,” he said. 

His ruling coalition was returned to power in elections for Japan’s more powerful lower house Sunday.

Abe said Japan’s decreasing population and aging is “the biggest challenge” for his Abenomics policy aimed at Japan’s economic recovery from deflation. “The problem is progressing by the minute, and we cannot afford waiting around.”

He promised a comprehensive package by the end of the year to deal with Japan’s demographic challenges, including investments in education, productivity improvements and pension system reform. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and a small coalition partner together secured at least 313 seats in the 465-member lower house, passing the 310-barrier for a two-thirds majority. Three seats remained undecided.

Abe said the result showed “strong support” from the people and thanked them for backing stability and his government’s policies.

The victory boosts Abe’s chances of winning another three-year term next September as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. That could extend his premiership to 2021, giving him more time to try to win a reluctant public over to his longtime goal of revising Japan’s pacifist constitution.

In the immediate term, the win likely means a continuation of the policies Abe has pursued since he took office in December 2012—a hard line on North Korea, close ties with Washington, including defence, as well as a super-loose monetary policy and push for nuclear energy. Stocks rose in Tokyo on Monday morning. Abe said he will have “deep discussion” on North Korean policies with President Donald Trump during his planned November 5-7 visit in Japan. 

Abe said he will call a special parliamentary session to be re-elected as prime minister and install his Cabinet, which is expected to retain most of its current members. Abe’s ruling coalition already has a two-thirds majority in the less powerful upper house. Having a so-called supermajority in both houses gives them virtually a free hand to push even divisive policies and legislation.

That would also increase Abe’s chances for achieving a constitutional revision, a goal his party and its nationalist supporters have advocated for years. They view the 1947 constitution as the legacy of Japan’s defeat in World War II and an imposition of the victor’s world order and values. The charter renounces the use of force in international conflicts and limits Japan’s troops to self-defence, although Japan has a well-equipped modern military that works closely with the US.

Any change to Japan’s constitution, which has never been amended, requires approval first by two-thirds of parliament, and then in a public referendum. Polls indicate that the Japanese public remains opposed to amendment.

Published: 24-10-2017 09:40

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