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INTERVIEW: Nippon Ishin wants serious diet talks on constitutional revision

Tokyo, July 9 (Jiji Press)–Ichiro Matsui, leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), has called for earnest discussions on proposed constitutional amendments to be held at the Diet, Japan’s parliament, after the upcoming election for the House of Councillors, the Diet’s upper chamber. 


While noting that he feels “a little bit strange” to see revisions of the top law become a key issue in the election, set for July 21, Matsui said he hopes that the constitution panels of both chambers of the Diet will hold active debates on the matter after the Upper House poll. Making serious discussions on constitutional amendments would become a promise to voters once it is debated in the election campaigns, he explained.


“If the ruling Liberal Democratic Party earnestly aims to revise the constitution, it should change the Diet’s existing obsolete rule” that the constitution panels are convened with the consent from both ruling and opposition parties, he indicated.


“Opposition parties that refuse to appear for discussions on constitutional revisions or avoid such debates are giving up their duties,” Matsui said.


On recent remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump that the Japan-U.S. security treaty is putting heavy burden on the U.S. side and is therefore unfair, Matsui said that it would be irresponsible to pretend not to know the view of the president of the allied country, Matsui said.


Discussions should be held on a possible revision of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution in light of the reality, he added.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who doubles as LDP president, hopes to clarify the existence of the Self-Defense Forces in Article 9 by amending the pacifist clause.


Matsui also called for discussions on the establishment of a national facility where anybody can pay tribute to the war dead, noting that it is very difficult at present for Japanese and overseas leaders to visit Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo as it honors Class-A World War II criminals among the war dead. The Shinto shrine is regarded by countries such as China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.


Matsui said that Nippon Ishin also sees a need to create an intelligence agency in Japan as its information-gathering capacity is lower than that of other advanced countries.


Touching on key policy promises, Matsui said Nippon Ishin aims to freeze the consumption tax increase from 8 pct to 10 pct planned for October.


The tax hike will “dampen consumption and throw cold water on the economy,” he claimed.


The Abe administration plans to use revenue from the tax hike to cover costs for a program to make nursery and kindergarten services and tertiary education free of charge.


Pointing out that the government of Osaka Prefecture, western Japan, is working to scrap tuition fees for local private high schools, Matsui, also mayor of the city of Osaka, the capital of the prefecture, and head of regional party Osaka Ishin no Kai, stressed that it would be possible also for the central government to eke out financial resources without raising tax.


Elsewhere in the interview, Matsui said that the prime minister’s Abenomics reflationary policy mix has helped Japan overcome deflation “to a certain extent.” While the economy is recovering moderately, however, deregulation efforts “remain insufficient,” he added.


Matsui denied the possibility of Nippon Ishin forming a coalition government with the LDP.


He said: “The LDP is a party that protects vested interests. While having no intention at all to reform the Diet, the party plans to carry out a tax increase. Nippon Ishin has no plan to ally with the LDP.”

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