Hoping to head off a possible breakaway from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi met Thursday with Ichiro Ozawa, appealing to the party kingpin to stand behind Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and shore up unity.

Ozawa had threatened to leave the DPJ and form a new party — taking with him dozens of his followers — unless Noda gave in to his ultimatum to scrap the contentious bill to raise the sales tax.

On Tuesday, Ozawa and 71 other DPJ lawmakers in the Lower House opposed or abstained from voting on the bill, which was passed. Party leaders have yet to decide what punishment to mete out for the disloyalty.