Japan’s Abe to run on economy

IS IT THE ECONOMY?:The former Japanese PM plans to run on an economic platform, but with four-fifths of voters disenchanted with both parties, winning will not be easy


Sun, Nov 18, 2012 - Page 4

The head of Japan’s largest opposition party said he will make Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s management of the world’s third-largest economy a key issue in seeking to unseat him in next month’s elections.

The elections will be a fight to win back Japan, former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe told reporters at the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) headquarters on Friday in Tokyo after parliament was dissolved for the Dec. 16 vote, adding he “will do all I can to end the political chaos and stalled economy.”

Public support for Noda plummeted as he pushed through a bill doubling Japan’s 5 percent sales tax in a bid to rein in the world’s largest public debt and restarted some nuclear reactors following last year’s disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. Opinion polls show that his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is set to lose power, making way for the country’s seventh leader in six years.

In a nationally televised press conference, Noda said he decided to call the elections after reaching deals to pass a deficit financing bill and electoral revisions. Polls show four-fifths of voters support neither of the main parties, signaling that the next prime minister may have to form a coalition government.

Abe advocates increased monetary easing to reverse more than a decade of falling prices and said he would consider revising a law guaranteeing the independence of the Bank of Japan. In an economic policy plan issued on Friday, the LDP said it would pursue policies to attain 3 percent nominal growth. The party governed Japan for more than half a century until ousted by the DPJ in 2009.

He would tackle deflation with different policies than those the LDP devised in the past, Abe said.

Abe was re-elected as LDP leader in September. He resigned after serving a year as prime minister in 2006 and 2007, blaming a digestive complaint from which he says he has recovered.

Noda said the elections are about whether Japan can go forward or return to the old politics of the past, and called for maintaining the central bank’s independence.

Abe has taken a harder line than Noda on ties with China that have frayed over rival claims to an island chain in the East China Sea. Abe favors building on the islands — known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyutais (釣魚台) in China and Taiwan (which also claims them) — and this week sparked a complaint from China when he met the Dalai Lama and called for democracy in Tibet.

Healthy nationalism is necessary, but can become xenophobia if taken to extremes, Noda said. Japan must pursue diplomatic and security policy more calmly and realistically, he added.

While calling for a rebuilding of trust with the US, Abe says he opposes promising to end all tariffs as a condition to joining US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks.

Noda said he will pursue participation in the talks and favors reaching a trilateral free-trade pact with South Korea and China. He reiterated a pledge to end Japan’s