Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed Sunday to impose “all possible pressure” on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programmes, promising to secure national security in a televised debate before a snap election .
Official campaigning begins Tuesday for the October 22 election in the world’ s third largest economy .
“Stepping up all possible pressure, we need to create a situation in which North Korea wants talks as it will change policy, ” Abe told the debate. “We will protect our country under stable politics . ”
Abe is seeking a fresh term as tensions with North Korea rise , with Pyongyang in recent months conducting what it described as a hydrogen bomb test and firing two missiles over Japan .
His Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has ruled the country for most of the post- war era, is on course to secure a majority .
But it is unclear whether it can again capture some two – thirds of the 465 seats in the powerful lower house , the margin necessary to approve changes to the pacifist constitution which Abe has been pushing.
The Democratic Party (DP ) — previously the main opposition party — imploded last week but Abe faces a new challenge from popular Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike. The pair clashed during the TV debate over economic and other policies.
Former TV anchorwoman Koike has shaken up Japan ’ s usually sleepy political scene by launching her “ Party of Hope ” , vowing a break with the old school represented by Abe ’ s LDP.
“We offer an alternative to voters in order to correct the Abe- dominated politics , ” Koike told the live debate.
“Our big goal is to aim to take power, ” the media- savvy Koike said without elaborating .
Abe defended his growth plan dubbed Abenomics — a mixture of aggressive monetary easing and huge government spending along with reforms to the economy intended to pull the country out of decades of deflation and downturn .
“If we had not carried out the monetary policy , the fiscal policy and the growth strategy , terrible things would have happened , ” he said .
But Koike pointed that consumer spending — accounting for more than half of Japan ’ s GDP — remained weak under Abenomics , saying : “We are yet to be in a position to pull out of the deflation economy . ”
Her party is attempting to field enough candidates to win a majority in the lower house , but Koike has repeatedly stressed that she herself will not stand .
More than half the candidates named by Koike so far have been former members of the DP.
The election is now effectively a three- horse race between the LDP, Koike’ s party and a new centre- left grouping of former DP members that did not jump on the Tokyo governor’ s bandwagon .