Japan's ruling party casts itself as reasonable, diplomatic

Tue Nov 27, 2012 6:25am EST
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By Tetsushi Kajimoto and Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's ruling Democrats cast themselves on Tuesday as the voice of reason on diplomacy and the economy as they headed for a general election, highlighting a contrast with the hawkish rhetoric and aggressive monetary policy recipes of their rivals.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his party vowed to defend national interests, including a chain of rocky East China Sea islets controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan, but would do so with diplomacy and "responsible defense."

"There are issues concerning sovereignty, territories and territorial waters, but we must adhere to the peaceful path we have followed since World War Two," Noda told journalists while unveiling the manifesto for the December 16 general election.

"At the same time, we must respond in a cool-headed, practical and strategic manner."

Noda's Democrats trail the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), whose leader Shinzo Abe, 58, stole the thunder early on with promises to stand up to Beijing and calls for "unlimited" monetary stimulus from the central bank.

Abe, who hopes to return to the prime minister's post he quit in 2007 after just one year on office, has called for reversing a long decline in Japan's defense spending and changes in its pacifist constitution to allow its military to play a more active role.

He also wants the Bank of Japan to agree with the government on an inflation target. Despite criticism that this could infringe on central bank independence, Abe repeated his call on Tuesday.

"The 1 percent 'goal' already announced by the bank won't do. It must instead be a 'target' of 2 percent," Abe told a symposium on Japan's growth strategy.   Continued...

A picture of Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who is also the leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), is seen on the cover of a leaflet of the party election campaign platform, in a reporters' bag at a news conference at the party headquarters in Tokyo November 27, 2012. REUTERS/Shohei Miyano