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Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012

Full-court press on sales levy to continue; key foe Ozawa threatens 'action' if poll is hinted

Noda keeps pressing DPJ on tax hike


Staff writer

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Friday he will keep pushing to hike the 5 percent consumption tax until all the naysayers in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, including kingpin Ichiro Ozawa, are on the same page with him.

News photo
Point man: Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda holds an interview with media outlets Friday at the prime minister's office. POOL

Noda is in a bind. The opposition camp refuses to discuss raising the sales tax as a way to cover snowballing social security costs, even though its main element, the Liberal Democratic Party, has advocated a hike. Core members of the DPJ-led ruling bloc also oppose an increase.

Noda hopes to submit a tax reform bill that includes the consumption levy hike to the Diet by the end of March, but as his leadership appears to keep eroding, so do his chances to win his goals.

"Quite a few people have participated in the discussions and not once did I steamroller a decision," Noda told media outlets Friday afternoon. "I believe we can reach a conclusion after careful deliberations and thus efforts will continue toward agreement."

Ozawa, known as a backroom dealer, has openly opposed the tax hike and threatened Thursday to "take action" if the prime minister looks to dissolve the Lower House and call an election so voters can weigh in on the tax hike — his key goal. The implication of such "action" was that Ozawa, who heads the largest DPJ faction, and his allies could side with any opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion seeking Noda's ouster.

"I am not considering dissolving the Lower House right now, so I am a bit troubled by (Ozawa's) statement based on such an assumption," Noda said, however, adding he may talk to Ozawa directly to win him over.

Noda is meanwhile set to visit Okinawa for the first time since he took office last September to try to ease the animosity people in the prefecture have against the government over the contentious plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan to Henoko, farther north on Okinawa island.

Although Okinawa wants the base out of the prefecture, Noda said Friday its continued presence in Okinawa is vital to national security.

"Japan's alliance with the U.S. will only grow in importance amid the increasingly difficult security situation surrounding our country, thus I think it is necessary to keep the marines in Okinawa, a geographically strategic location from the standpoint of maintaining deterrence," Noda said.



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