Japan’s prime minister, faced with sinking popularity rates and hostile opposition, has asked ruling party heavyweight Katsuya Okada, a fiscal hawk, to become his deputy to oversee tax and social security reform, domestic media reported on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda hopes that drafting Okada, who has held key government and party posts in the past, would boost the government’s chances of pushing through an increase in Japan’s 5 percent sales tax to fund swelling social welfare costs, the Asahi and other major newspapers said.
The government plans to submit bills by March to double the sales tax in two stages by 2015, but their passage is uncertain as opposition parties can use their control of parliament’s upper house to block legislation.
Ichiro Ozawa, one of the country’s most powerful lawmakers, rejected a request Friday to testify before a Diet ethics panel over his alleged role in falsifying a political funding report, setting up a possible showdown with Prime Minister Naoto Kan next week, ruling party lawmakers said.
Ozawa, a kingpin in the Democratic Party of Japan, told the party’s secretary general, Katsuya Okada, that he finds "no rational reason" to appear before the Lower House political ethics panel, considering that his case will be addressed in court.
Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada arrived Sunday in the United States for talks on a controversial US military base that has clouded relations between the close allies, officials said.
Okada was to hold talks with Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday before traveling on to Canada for a meeting of Group of Eight foreign ministers, where Okada was to meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
On Sunday, Okada was expected to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery alongside a US official, a frequent gesture between the former World War II foes, officials said.
The United States reiterated its demand Tuesday that Japan implement a 2006 bilateral pact on the transfer of a U.S. military airfield in Okinawa during the first meeting of a working group on the thorny issue.
While the participants agreed on the need to ‘‘expeditiously’’ seek a resolution of the issue involving the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station, a senior U.S. defense official warned a delay in finding a solution may change the stance of the U.S. Congress which supports the transfer of thousands of Marines from Okinawa to Guam—a plan also included in the accord on the U.S. forces realignment.