Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Liberal Democratic Party head Shinzo Abe on Sunday stepped up their rhetoric ahead of the general election and agreed to hold a face-to-face debate on the Internet to highlight their policy differences.
Speaking on a TV program, Noda again tore into Abe’s suggestion that the Bank of Japan adopt more aggressive monetary easing to combat deflation, specifically by purchasing government construction bonds to finance public works. The prime minister dismissed Abe’s plan as “extremely dangerous,” arguing it could result in steep inflation.
“(The LDP’s policy) would leave huge debts for future generations to pay off and put our nation at risk” because the downside risks would far outweigh any positive effects if the BOJ were to pump liquidity into the market in such a manner, Noda warned.
Appearing alongside Noda, Abe retaliated by labeling the DPJ’s economic policies as a failure and hinted at his plans for the central bank.
The ruling party “speaks of the BOJ as an untouchable entity, but that is totally wrong,” Abe said.
The two also tangled on security policy and foreign affairs.
Noda challenged the LDP’s campaign pledge to revise the Constitution and turn the Self-Defense Forces into a national defense force that would be explicitly allowed to exercise collective self-defense and come to the aid of an ally under armed attack.
Abe in turn criticized the DPJ’s foreign policies as lacking insight and subtlety.
In a rare moment of agreement, both said they were willing to hold a one-on-one debate, with the LDP president suggesting they cross swords on an Internet program Thursday.
Defending the government’s purchase of the Senkaku Islands in September, Noda said it was aimed at preventing them from being taken over by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government led by nationalist Gov. Shintaro Ishihara.
“I thought about what would happen if the Tokyo Metropolitan Government bought the islands. I made a political decision that it would be better for the state to own, maintain and preserve them in a peaceful and stable manner on a long-term basis,” Noda said.
He also criticized the LDP’s campaign pledge to station civil servants on the Senkakus, saying the measure “would endanger bilateral relations” with China, which also claims them.
Japan’s purchase in September of three of the five uninhabited islets from their Japanese owner set off violent protests in China and heightened tensions between the two countries.
Ishihara kicked off the escapade by announcing plans to purchase the disputed islands to clarify their sovereignty. The ploy drew donations from across Japan, forcing the central government to outbid him.
Noda meanwhile confirmed his willingness to participate in a face-to-face debate with Abe on Thursday but later backed away from Abe’s proposal to hold it on the Internet.
Abe said he preferred the Internet as a venue because the fairness protocols followed by broadcasters require the heads of each party to be present in every televised “debate.” Abe said that wouldn’t be the case on the Internet.
The two parties are expected to meet Monday to negotiate the format of the debate.
Meanwhile, seven opposition parties, including Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People’s Life First), Your Party, the Social Democratic Party and Japan Communist Party, jointly submitted a request to the DPJ to have Noda debate each one of them. They also criticized Noda for deliberately choosing one party to debate before the election.