Japan's Prime Minister Shinzō Abe announced Monday that he will dissolve the parliament's lower house later this week ahead of a snap election. Reforms enacted a year ago will cut the number of lower house seats to 465 from 475. Just a few months ago his rating dropped to near 30 percent due to domestic scandals alleging he used his office to help friends and family profit, charges that he denied. On that basis, Prime Minister Abe noted the importance of applying pressure at an unprecedented and new level on North Korea, and emphasized the need to fully implement the relevant Security Council resolutions, including the recently adopted Resolution 2375, in order to avoid any loopholes in the sanctions regime.
While the consensus is that the LDP/New Komeito coalition should retain its two-thirds majority, Yasunori Iwanaga, chief investment officer at Amundi Japan, warns that if Tokyo mayor Yuriko Koike's Kibo party gains significant votes in the election, Abe may have to reassess his plans.
"Abe will keep keep a fairly low profile on (constitutional issues) and focus on emphasizing stability and the success of his Abenomics reforms", Kohlbacher said. The most recent was between 2009 and 2012, when Japan was ruled by what was then known as the Minshuto, or the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).
The main opposition Democratic Party is struggling with single-digit ratings and much depends on whether it can cooperate with liberal opposition groups.
While the opposition in Japan now seems divided and weak, Abe's critics say he runs the risk of alienating voters by playing politics at time when the country faces a serious security threat.
Rumours have always been swirling that Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike - an erstwhile ally turned political rival - is eyeing a return to national politics.
Abe has served a total of nearly six years as prime minister: he had a truncated term a decade ago, and came back to power in a landslide in 2012. After defecting from the LDP, she crushed it in a July election for the metropolitan assembly. That poll is often seen as a barometer for national trends.
The country's 48th General Election comes after a shaky time for Abe and his government, which was wracked by two corruption scandals linked to the Prime Minister and his wife, and the resignation of Defence Minister Tomomi Inada over an alleged cover-up.
Koike announced on Monday that she would lead candidates across the country under the "Party of Hope".
Diverting the funds, however, would make "achieving the primary balance surplus by fiscal 2020 hard", he said.
This has been slammed in an editorial by the left-leaning Asahi Shimbun as being "raised out of the blue as a pretext" for a snap election, and that the policy had been "raised without any discussion".
Other government sources have told Reuters Abe will pledge to use some of the revenue from a scheduled sales tax hike in 2019 to fund spending on education and child care.
Mr Abe demanded strict implementation of United Nations sanctions on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's regime, the latest round of which includes a ban on the country's textile exports and a freeze on work permits to North Korean guest workers.
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China will suspend such exports once the total exports approaches the ceiling, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. He also said, "we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea if forced to defend itself".
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Ri reportedly added that "We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un". There have been so many rounds of sanctions against North Korea that it can be hard to keep track.
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