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Sunday, Sep. 16, 2012

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Heating things up: Liberal Democratic Party presidential candidates (from left) Shinzo Abe, Shigeru Ishiba, Nobutaka Machimura, Nobuteru Ishihara and Yoshimasa Hayashi discuss their policies Saturday at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo. KYODO

Candidate Ishihara talks tough on Senkakus, Abe qualifies tax hike

Staff writer

Liberal Democratic Party presidential candidate Nobuteru Ishihara, in reference to the growing tensions with China over the Japan-held Senkaku Islands, said Saturday during a televised debate that the nation must protect its territory.

"I think a lesson we learned is that (part of) the country will be snatched if we are off guard, and we have to take responsibility for protecting our own territory," the 55-year-old LDP secretary general, whose hawkish, anti-China father, Shintaro, is governor of Tokyo, said in a debate with four other candidates at the Japan National Press Club in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, a day after campaigning for the Sept. 26 LDP election kicked off.

The tensions boiled over this week after Japan effectively nationalized the uninhabited islets in the East China Sea that China also claims. Anti-Japan protests have been staged across China, including in Beijing and Shanghai, ever since a group of Hong Kong protesters landed on the islets in August.

The four other candidates were not asked to comment on the Senkaku row. But all of them said at a news conference Friday that they agree with the government's move to buy three of the five-islet group to ensure the chain was effectively nationalized.

Ex-Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba said Friday the government should "enhance its effective control over" the islets, while ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan needs to "further promote its control" of the territory.

Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, however, questioned the wisdom of building any infrastructure on the islets to solidify Japan's grip.

Ishihara criticized the Democratic Party of Japan-led government for failing to discuss the dispute with China.

Former defense and economic minister Yoshimasa Hayashi echoed their views.

On Saturday, the candidates also discussed their economic positions, which differed little, except that Abe said the 5 percent sales tax should not be doubled if deflation continues.

After obstructing legislation, the LDP and New Komeito signed on to pass the DPJ-sponsored bill to double the consumption levy by 2015 and other social security reforms.

"I agree that we should raise the sales tax to 10 percent from 5. But if we make a mistake on the timing, it could damage the economy," Abe said. "If deflation continues like right now, we should . . . not raise the tax."

The candidates also agreed to keep up the pressure on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to dissolve the Lower House and call a snap election as soon as possible.

Ishiba said the LDP should cooperate to pass a special DPJ-sponsored bill to issue deficit bonds to cover 40 percent of the 2012 budget, unless Noda keeps snubbing calls to dissolve the Lower House for an election.

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The Japan Times

Article 3 of 15 in National news

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