Staff writer

With opinion polls continuing to show low public support for the new LDP-Liberal Party-New Komeito coalition, new Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki said Friday that the government will try its best to raise opinions by implementing better policies.

“The three parties must plan and achieve better policies to gain a voter mandate, which would reverse the low support figure (for the coalition),” said Aoki, 65, an Upper House lawmaker with the Liberal Democratic Party, in an interview with The Japan Times.

The tripartite coalition has received low public support since June, when Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi first announced the plan.

The popularity of Obuchi’s administration was 47 percent immediately after the new Cabinet was formed Oct. 5, according to a Kyodo News survey of 1,000 voters chosen at random.

In the same survey, however, a mere 12 percent said they support the three-party coalition.

Striving for specific policy goals may be a difficult task for the coalition, which is made up of parties with three different platforms. But Aoki said he is sure the parties can clear all hurdles through talks.

Referring to the nation’s worst nuclear disaster, which struck a uranium processing plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, last month, Aoki said the government must step up its effort to prevent a recurrence.

“We are determined to tackle the issue of crisis management on the premise that any kind of accident can occur,” Aoki said, adding that the government has no plan to change its nuclear energy policy.

Aoki, who concurrently serves as director general of the Okinawa Development Agency, said he will make efforts toward relocating the Futenma Air Station in central Okinawa.

Referring to the resolution adopted Friday by the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly to relocate the heliport functions of the air station, Aoki said the resolution reflects local people’s strong expectations.

The resolution also urges prompt implementation of the central government plan to find new uses for the Futenma base after it is vacated. It also calls for economic incentives to be provided to the area around the heliport’s future site.

“The government will make its utmost effort to help settle the problem and consider requests from local people,” Aoki said.

Stressing the government has basically entrusted the matter to Okinawa, Aoki did not say when he thinks it will be concluded. The government hopes to settle the issue “as early as possible,” he said.

In agreeing to form the coalition, the three parties called for all consumption tax revenue to be spent on social welfare, a move that could lead to a consumption tax hike. The tax is currently 5 percent.

Aoki said the Obuchi administration does not plan to raise the tax immediately.

Although he is not a well-known politicians, Aoki is recognized for his broad political network, which he has built since he served as a secretary to former Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita about 40 years ago.

Obuchi has reportedly appointed Aoki to the heavyweight portfolio, taking into consideration his experience in coordinating the LDP’s largest faction, led by Obuchi, who inherited it from Takeshita.

Aoki also served as the LDP’s secretary general in the Upper House, where the party is short of a majority.

Aoki’s friendly ties with New Komeito members and key Liberal Party members are said to have contributed to launching the tripartite coalition.

Compared with former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka, who has often influenced political scenes by making aggressive remarks, Aoki speaks in a subdued tone at news conferences.

Aoki has said that he will be a chief Cabinet secretary with a different style. He said he will concentrate on the role of coordinator between the ruling parties and the Cabinet, leaving matters between the three parties up to their leaders.

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