Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would dissolve parliament’s lower house Thursday for a snap election, seeking a mandate to stick to his tough stance towards a volatile North Korea and rebalance the social security system.
Abe, in power for five years, had been expected to call the election for next month to take advantage of improved support and disarray in the opposition camp.
“I’ll demonstrate strong leadership and stand at the forefront to face a national crisis,” Abe told reporters, mentioning Japan’s fast-ageing population and North Korea.
“This is my responsibility as leader and my mission as prime minister.”
Natsuo Yamaguchi, the head of Abe’s junior coalition partner the Komeito party, said he understood the election would be on Oct. 22.
Abe said he would redirect some revenue from a planned sales tax hike in 2019 to child care and education rather than paying back public debt, although he added he would not abandon fiscal reform. Rebalancing the spending would offset the potential negative effect on consumption from the tax rise, he said.
“We will turn Japan’s social security system into one that responds to all generations by boldly diverting policy resources to resolve the two major concerns – child rearing and [elderly] nursing care – that working generations confront,” he said.
Abe rejected criticism that holding an election now would create a political vacuum at a time of rising tension over North Korea’s missile and nuclear arms program. Pyongyang has fired ballistic missiles over Japan more than twice in the last month and conducted its sixth and biggest nuclear test on Sept. 3.
“We must not give in to North Korea’s threats. By gaining a mandate from the people with this election, I will forge ahead with strong diplomacy,” Abe said, adding that now was the time to put more pressure on Pyongyang, not open dialogue.