Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Tuesday he intends to talk out his contentious postal privatization plan with the ruling bloc so related bills can be approved by the Diet within the current 150-day session.

Koizumi, who defied opposition from the Liberal Democratic Party, which he heads, to have his postal privatization plan approved by the Cabinet last fall — made the statement at the House of Councilors.

“From the standpoint of what would constitute a better reform plan, I’d like to proceed with frank and thorough consultations (with the ruling coalition) from now on,” Koizumi said in response to a question from Mikio Aoki, chairman of the LDP caucus in the Upper House.

Japan Post is scheduled to be gradually privatized beginning in 2007. Koizumi has pledged to split the huge entity into four components that will separately handle postal delivery, savings, life insurance and network management services.

Many in the LDP oppose their president’s privatization initiative. They want to keep the nationwide postal network intact — it’s been a major vote-getting machine for the long-dominant party — and claim they want to ensure a uniform level of service nationwide.

“I want to vigorously appeal for all members to get in the ring and begin forward-looking consultations on this occasion,” Aoki said. “To this end, prime minister, I want you to begin by changing your basic attitude on this issue.”

Aoki spent 10 of his 25 minutes of speaking time on postal reform, urging Koizumi to adopt a “sincere, humble and cooperative” position on the issue, prompting applause and laughter from the floor.

“I cannot help but think that the prime minister’s (self-righteous) attitude has made this postal privatization issue more difficult,” Aoki went on. “I’d like to ascertain how the prime minister will be proceeding with postal reform, and then respond to it with a concrete stance.”

When Koizumi was re-elected LDP president in September 2003, he was supported by Aoki, who was then secretary general of the party’s Upper House caucus and considered a leading figure among those opposed to postal privatization.

The LDP “supported you (not for the cause of) postal privatization,” Aoki said, noting the intention of the party was not to solely elect a prime minister bent on postal reforms. I “don’t want you to misunderstand that point.”

Some view the caucus as holding the key to the postal bills’ fate because the chamber cannot be dissolved by the prime minister and can thus block their passage — even if they clear the Lower House.

The prime minister has the exclusive power to dissolve the Lower House and call a snap election. This tactic is sometimes used to let voters cast judgment on contentious issues.

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