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Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Kan urges Diet to unite for fiscal fix, draws fire
By ALEX MARTIN
Prime Minister Naoto Kan called Monday on the opposition camp to back his plans to launch a joint panel to discuss ways to restore the nation's battered finances, but he also came under fire.
The opposition camp grilled Kan over his involvement in the previous administration's flip-flops on relocating the U.S. Futenma air base and the money scandals that led to the resignations of Yukio Hatoyama as prime minister and Ichiro Ozawa as secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan.
The DPJ-led coalition meanwhile faced harsh criticism for effectively deciding to let the Diet session end Wednesday as scheduled, after retracting its earlier proposal to extend it by one day.
Taking the podium, Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki said the LDP would join Kan's proposed panel on condition that the DPJ drop from its platform "dole-out policies" such as child allowances, and stressed that the DPJ's fiscal policies would otherwise lead the nation to financial collapse.
Taking the baton from Tanigaki, LDP lawmaker Isshu Sugawara asked the new prime minister whether he intends to specify a tax hike in the DPJ's platform for the July 11 Upper House election.
Kan has repeatedly stressed in the past the importance of fiscal discipline to stem the government debt, even suggested hiking the consumption tax.
While neither specifying the timing nor extent of a tax hike, Kan did say he "understands that references to a tax hike will be mentioned" in the DPJ manifesto for the election.
Tanigaki slammed Kan for deliberately keeping his distance from his predecessor administration's dealings with the Futenma issue, and calling the ploy "strategic sabotage."
"Mr. Kan has pinned all the blame on Mr. Hatoyama, and deliberately kept his mouth shut on the issue — his responsibilities are grave," Tanigaki said.
He also criticized the ruling bloc for opting not to extend the Diet session, effectively putting the Upper House election on track for July 11.
"The DPJ is acting on partisan interests, trying to head into the Upper House election without properly reviewing the previous administration's failures," Tanigaki said
Tanigaki, who said Sunday he will step down as LDP leader if his party fails to win a majority in the Upper House election, also asked that DPJ kingpin Ozawa be called to the Diet to explain his involvement with shady political funds transfers.
On Futenma, Kan stuck to his previous call for the continued need for U.S. deterrence in the Asia-Pacific region and said he intends to follow through with the agreement reached last month with Washington to relocate Futenma within Okinawa, while also "working to alleviate the burden on Okinawa."
Regarding Ozawa, Kan said it is the Diet's job to decide whether to summon him for testimony.
New Komeito Party Secretary General Yoshihisa Inoue slammed the DPJ administration for backpedaling on many of its campaign promises, including the repeal of provisional surcharges on gasoline and automobile-related taxes, and freeing up highway tolls.
Inoue also criticized Kan for the DPJ's failed attempt to ram through a controversial bill to scale back privatization of the postal system, and said the bill should be scrapped.
While apologizing for backpedaling on certain policies, Kan said he intends to enact the postal bill during the next extraordinary Diet session. The bill is being championed by postal reform minister Shizuka Kamei, head of Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party), the other member of the DPJ-led ruling bloc.