Japan's new Restoration Party seeks more defense spending

Thu Nov 29, 2012 3:04am EST
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By Kiyoshi Takenaka

TOKYO (Reuters) - A new Japanese party that hopes to become a force to contend with in a December 16 general election called for more defense spending on Thursday to protect national interests and cuts in corporate and income taxes to bolster the economy.

The Japan Restoration Party, which trails only the main opposition Liberal Democrats in a latest opinion poll, also wants to shrink the role of the central government while strengthening market competition and making it easier to revise Japan's pacifist constitution.

The party's platform calls for breaking a decades-old unofficial cap that limited defense spending to 1 percent of gross domestic product and boosting maritime surveillance. Such moves could further strain ties with China, already frayed by a feud over islands in the East China Sea.

Deputy party chief and popular Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto said exporting Japan's weapons technology would make Japan more secure.

"What Japan can do is (forming) alliances in economy and in technology. If Japanese weapons flow into various countries while Japan is keeping the core (technology), that would be strong security (for Japan)," Hashimoto told a news conference unveiling the party's platform.

Japan last year relaxed its self-imposed ban on military equipment exports, but shipments are still limited to strategic allies like the United States.

About 15 percent of voters surveyed by the Nikkei business daily plan to vote for the Japan Restoration Party, ahead of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) with 13 percent but behind the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) at 23 percent.

In a reference to Japan's territorial spat with China over rocky East China Sea islets controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing and Taipei, the party urged China to take the matter to the International Court of Justice.   Continued...

Japan Restoration Party leader and nationalist former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara (front L) and his deputy, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto (front R) take their seats at a joint news conference to unveil their party's election campaign platform in Tokyo November 29, 2012. The new Japanese party that hopes to become a force to contend with in a Dec. 16 general election is calling for more defence spending to protect national interests and lower corporate and income taxes to bolster the economy, local media reported on Thursday. REUTERS/Issei Kato