Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday his long-held goal of amending the pacifist Constitution will be one of the key issues in the Upper House election this summer.

In his first news conference of 2016, Abe pledged an all-out effort to maintain the ruling bloc’s majority in the Upper House.

“We will call for amending the Constitution during the election campaign as we’ve done before,” Abe said. “Through such calls, I’d like to deepen public debate” on the issue.

“I would like the LDP and Komeito to secure a majority in the Upper House,” he said, referring to the Liberal Democratic Party’s junior coalition partner. “I will do my utmost to achieve that victory.”

Abe, whose news conference came as the Diet opened a 150-day ordinary session, said his three years of leadership will be judged by the public at election time.

However, he denied recent speculation that he will hold a Lower House election simultaneously with the Upper House race this summer, saying he “is not at all considering” dissolving the lower chamber.

Winning the upcoming election is crucial for the LDP to finally take a step toward its long-standing goal of revising the U.S.-drafted Constitution, which has remained unaltered for nearly 70 years.

To hold a national referendum on revising the Constitution, the ruling camp must command a two-thirds majority in both Diet chambers.

Currently, the LDP-Komeito coalition holds a two-thirds majority in the 475-seat Lower House and a simple majority in the 242-seat Upper House.

If the ruling bloc gains 86 seats in the Upper House election, it will be able hold a national referendum.

Regarding the economy, Abe said Japan is no longer in a situation where deflation is persistent, but he admitted that the country is still only halfway toward achieving a full recovery. To fully exit deflation, he stressed the importance of raising wages and boosting capital spending.

Abe also touched on the dispute over the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, saying that a summit with President Vladimir Putin must take place for the two countries to forge a peace treaty, which Japan and Russia still haven’t signed for World War II.

He said the government will continue to seek “the most appropriate timing” for a meeting with Putin in Japan.

At the summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations to be held in late May in Mie Prefecture, Abe said Japan aims to play a leading role in laying out paths to solve the many challenges facing the world today, such as the fight against terrorism, poverty and climate change.


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