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Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011

Kan heaps more coals on Ozawa fire

Kickoff speech also touches on taxes, TPP


Staff writer

Democratic Party of Japan heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa should decide his own course of action, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday, indicating the DPJ don should consider resigning from both the ruling party and the Diet when he is indicted over his political money scandal.

News photo
Naoto Kan

Kan also said he hopes to reach a decision by June on whether to commit Japan to the U.S.-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement for free trade in a bid to open the nation to the world, and by the same month reach a conclusion regarding tax reform, namely a consumption tax hike.

Facing reporters at the Prime Minister's Official Residence, Kan said: "As a lawmaker, (Ozawa) should clarify his future course of action. If (he) thinks he should concentrate on the trial, he should do so."

Ozawa faces mandatory charges later this month over his involvement in the alleged falsification of his political funding reports, and thus Kan's comments were perceived as driving him further into a corner.

Ozawa immediately struck back, saying Kan is wasting his time.

While taping a TV program, Ozawa said the scandal should be "a matter of no importance (for the prime minister)" and that Kan should be working on presenting "what he will do for the benefit of the public."

Kan's remarks came after Ozawa said last week he would give unsworn testimony about the allegations before the Lower House Political Ethics Council, bending to repeated demands from the prime minister.

Ozawa has said he opted to testify so deliberations on the fiscal 2011 budget would be smooth during the regular Diet session that convenes later this month.

"(Former DPJ leader) Ozawa said he would explain himself in the Diet, so I would like him to keep his word," Kan said.

On an anticipated Cabinet reshuffle, Kan said only that he wants to have a powerful lineup in place to pass the 2011 budget swiftly.

"With that basic stance, I'll further consider the details," he said, declining to comment on whether he will replace Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku and transport minister Sumio Mabuchi, as demanded by the opposition camp.

The opposition parties, which in November passed nonbinding censure motions against Sengoku and Mabuchi in the Upper House, have vowed to boycott Diet deliberations if they are not replaced.

Jiji Press has reported that Kan plans to form a new Cabinet and DPJ executive lineup after the party's annual convention Jan. 13.

Unlike no-confidence motions, censure motions that clear the Upper House do not oblige lawmakers to resign. If a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet clears the Lower House, Kan has to either dissolve the Diet for a snap election or the Cabinet would have to resign.

"The Constitution does not stipulate that the Diet has to be dissolved" in a case of censure motions, he said.

"If (the Diet is dissolved) or Cabinet members resign over this, then it would mean the Upper House has more power than the Lower House," Kan said.

His comment suggested he is reluctant to replace the two, especially Sengoku, who coordinates a large portion of the administration's policies.

Asked if dissolving the Lower House for an election would be considered if the Diet deadlocks, Kan said he has no such plans.

To get the opposition camp in the divided Diet to vote for the budget, Kan said he may consider revisions.

Although the DPJ failed to persuade Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan), a minor opposition party, to join the ruling coalition last month, Kan said he will continue to seek cooperation from other parties.

"We have basically been asking (the opposition parties) to cooperate on a policy basis. That principal applies to any parties in the ordinary Diet session," he said.

On the TPP accord, Kan said he wants to make a decision by June on whether to "open the country."

The administration has already agreed to start preliminary talks with the countries involved in the TPP negotiations. But farmers are wary because scrapping tariffs would deal them a heavy blow.

The government hopes to map out ways to revitalize farming, which is heavily subsidized, by June, and is now discussing the details, Kan said.

He also voiced hope that a nonpartisan body can be formed and start deliberations on social welfare and tax reforms, including a consumption tax hike, as soon as possible so a concrete plan can be submitted by June.

Information from Kyodo added



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