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Abe eyes cooperation from Initiatives from Osaka party on constitutional amendment

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his conviction that constitutional amendment would lead to a new era for Japan at a Jan. 18 meeting of the House of Councillors' Budget Committee.

    "I am convinced that only by writing the Constitution with our own hands can we gain the spirit needed to unlock a new future for Japan," Abe said -- referring to his position that the current Constitution was "forced upon" Japan by the post-World War II Allied Occupation authorities -- in response to a question from Toranosuke Katayama, co-leader of Osaka Ishin-no-kai (Initiatives from Osaka), which is in favor of constitutional amendment. Abe added, "I believe that we share the need and responsibility for revising the Constitution with Osaka Ishin-no-kai."

    With regard to which parts of the Constitution will be up for revision, however, Abe only went as far as to say, "A major characteristic of constitutional revision is that it must be proposed by at least two-thirds of the upper and lower houses of the Diet, after which it must be put to a national referendum. Understanding and support from the public is essential, and the specific content and timing of the revisions will emerge on their own once debate in the Diet and among the public deepens."

    Katayama pointed to the recommendation to cut 10 seats in the House of Representatives, which was included in a report released by a lower house electoral reform panel headed by former University of Tokyo president Takeshi Sasaki, arguing that it could be accomplished if the prime minister took the initiative. Abe evaded a clear response, however, instead saying, "Not just our party, which goes without saying, but other parties and factions must take to heart the recommendations made in the report, and conduct serious discussions to reach a prompt conclusion on electoral reform in order to live up to the public mandate."

    In response to a question raised by Japan Innovation Party lawmaker Ryuhei Kawada over concerns that drug prices will skyrocket with the introduction of American rules for calculating drug prices under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Abe stated, "Stipulations on drugs and other related products under the TPP are all within current Japanese standards, so there will be no sudden increase in drug prices."

    As for the victory of Tsai Ying-wen of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan's presidential election on Jan. 16, Abe said, "I would like to express my sincere congratulations. I am hopeful for progress in cooperation and interpersonal exchanges between Japan and Taiwan."

    The upper house budget committee's board decided in a meeting on Jan. 18 that the prime minister and all other members of the Cabinet will attend the upper house budget committee meeting on the afternoon of Jan. 19 for a closing question-and-answer session and vote to pass the fiscal 2015 supplementary budget. The supplementary budget is expected to pass in the upper house plenary session on Jan. 20.

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