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Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s calls to the opposition camp for cross-party talks on tax and social security reform appeared to fall on deaf ears as New Komeito remained adamant Friday on demanding that he step down.

“Calls from the public are increasing, and what the public is honestly saying is that they can’t entrust you with the job of being the country’s prime minister,” New Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi said during a plenary session of the opposition-dominated Upper House.

Kan attended question-and-answer sessions in both Diet chambers from Wednesday through Friday in connection with his policy speech earlier in the week.

Yamaguchi’s remarks echoed his deputy, New Komeito Secretary General Yoshihisa Inoue, who during a Diet Thursday called for Kan to dissolve the Lower House or resign if the Democratic Party of Japan decides to change its 2009 campaign pledges.

Despite earlier statements by the Liberal Democratic Party shunning cross-party talks, Kan is continuing to try to secure the support of it and other opposition parties, including New Komeito, which was in the ruling coalition when the LDP held power before the DPJ took over in 2009.

Kan told the Upper House that social security reform can “no longer be delayed” and called for New Komeito’s cooperation, noting their two parties share an understanding on various reform points.

Kan also sought to play down an earlier remark, which was criticized by Yamaguchi as being provocative, that the opposition camp’s failure to agree to talks with the ruling coalition on reform “goes against history.”

“I didn’t mean to criticize anyone,” Kan said, adding that when it comes to calling for cross-party talks, he did so in a “sincere and humble” manner and will continue to do so.

On what he meant about staking his political life on reform, Kan said, “I want to protect the social security system . . . and want to put my full efforts into it.” However, he didn’t state categorically that he will resign if he fails to deliver reform.

During an afternoon session of the Diet, Kan once again ruled out dissolving the Lower House and defended his remark Thursday in response to the downgrade of Japan’s sovereign debt rating, as opposition lawmakers took turns using the incident to lash him.

Kan, already under fire for his lack of leadership and bungled handling of policies since taking office in June, is facing another headache for telling reporters Thursday that he would like to comment on it later because he didn’t know anything about it.

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