Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka on Monday criticized accusations lodged Sunday by Liberal Party leader Ichiro Ozawa that the Liberal Democratic Party is not negotiating seriously enough in ongoing policy talks aimed at forming a coalition.

“Mr. Ozawa may be a little bit too wrapped up in his policies than when he initially proposed them” to Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi in their Nov. 19 talks — when the two leaders agreed to form a coalition — the top government spokesman told a news conference.

Nonaka, a senior LDP member, said that the two parties’ policy brokers have continued to discuss reducing the number of Cabinet ministers to 18 from the current 20, as well as the submission of bills to the next ordinary Diet session that aim to abolish the current system of bureaucrats — as opposed to state ministers — responding to lawmakers’ questions during Diet deliberations.

The ideas were agreed to at a Dec. 19 meeting between the two leaders, during which they also agreed to establish common principles on national security, based on the principles of the Constitution, before the next ordinary Diet session. “We have been responding sincerely to the three points” agreed between the leaders Dec. 19, Nonaka said.

Also criticizing Ozawa for suggesting that Obuchi should delay a Cabinet reshuffle, he stressed that the government still aims to reorganize the Cabinet on Jan. 14 as scheduled.

Speaking on a series of television programs Sunday, Ozawa criticized the LDP’s “insufficient” stance on ongoing policy talks between the two parties toward forming a coalition government. “If policies on reforms are not implemented, there is no hope of forming (a coalition),” Ozawa said, indicating the LDP and Liberal Party are still far from coming together on policy with Jan. 14 fast approaching.

Ozawa said Obuchi can reshuffle the Cabinet at any time, indicating policy matters are more important than timing. To bridge their gaps, the two parties have launched five project teams to map out common policies.

Speaking at a regular news conference Monday, Nonaka said Ozawa’s remarks are unfortunate considering the sincere efforts the two parties have been making so far. “It is truly regrettable to hear Mr. Ozawa saying that the establishment of the coalition government must be reconsidered because the basic policy goals that his party had aimed for are unlikely to be achieved,” Nonaka told reporters.

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