Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed Monday in his first press conference of 2014 to boost efforts to achieve steady economic growth and to encourage companies to raise wages to offset the fallout from sales tax hike coming in April.
He also touched on the need for public debate on amending the pacifist Constitution and stressed he hopes to explain to Beijing and Seoul why he made a sudden visit last month to war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, enraging both nations.
“I want a fresh start with a fighting spirit and a sense of urgency,” Abe told reporters in Mie Prefecture, where he visited Ise Shrine.
He vowed additional government measures to achieve a “virtuous cycle of the economy as well as higher incomes” for households ahead of the April 1 tax hike, which will push the levy to 8 percent from 5 percent.
The Diet session starting later this month will mainly focus on such stimulus measures, Abe added. Wages, however, continue to drop as the weakened yen drives prices for imports, especially energy, and other goods up.
On his goal of amending the Constitution, Abe said thorough public discussions are needed on how to interpret and revise the charter amid changing times, vowing that Japan will also “contribute proactively” toward world peace and stability.
On Japan’s strained ties with China and South Korea over territorial and other disputes, Abe admitted Tokyo has not made any direct overtures and said he hopes the leaders can meet to help resolve their antagonisms.
Abe has said Japan must never wage war again, although he favors strengthening the military and revising the Constitution. Those goals are popular with some Japanese, although polls show most people are more concerned about the economy.