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2008 September 24 - 30 [POLITICS]

Prime Minister Aso bombards opposition parties with questions during his first policy speech

September 30, 2008
In an unusual move, Prime Minister Aso Taro used his policy speech before the Diet on September 29, the first since he took office, to attack opposition parties, in particular the Democratic Party of Japan, apparently with a possible snap House of Representatives general election in mind.

Emphasizing, “Japan must be stronger and brighter,” Aso focused on a psychological approach instead of concrete policies.

He admitted that Japan’s economic illness is so serious that it will take “three years for it to be fully cured” but said he would continue with the “structural reform” policy, which has increased the poverty rate and widened the gap between rich and poor.

Aso carefully avoided discussing a consumption tax increase, although he is an advocate of a consumption tax increase.

Referring to the unpopular health insurance system for the elderly aged 75 and over, Aso made it clear that it should be maintained. “No problems will be solved even it the system is abolished.”

He also referred to the need to revise the rules for the use of temporary workers, but did not put forward any concrete measures.

On diplomacy, Aso’s subservience to the U.S. stood out when he stated, “The No. 1 priority is a stronger Japan-U.S. alliance.”

Expressing his strong determination to maintain the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law in order to continue the Self-Defense Force assistance to the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, he stated, “Japan doesn’t have the option of withdrawing from the mission.”
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