JAPAN'S PM SHINZO ABE PLEDGES TO DEAL WITH NORTH KOREADate: 2017-10-23
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a decisive victory in Sunday's election and has promised strong "counter-measures" against North Korea.
He called an early election to allow him a greater mandate to deal with "crises", including the growing threat from Pyongyang which fired missiles over Japan recently.
Speaking to the press in Tokyo, Mr Abe said his win was a "vote of confidence" from the Japanese public and that "we would dramatically show counter-measures against the North Korea threat".
His ruling coalition retained their two-thirds majority in parliament and allows Mr Abe to amend Japan's post-war pacifist constitution.
In the past, Mr Abe has called for the formalising of the country's armed forces which he believes is needed to strengthen Japan's defence, although this has been deemed controversial by critics who say it is a step towards re-militarisation.
The prime minister plans to discuss these measures with the US, Russia and China. US President, Donald Trump, is visiting Japan next month to consider how Japan could exert "stronger pressure" on North Korea. "I will make sure the Japanese public is safe, and safeguard our nation," said Mr Abe.
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes commented: "Mr Abe's pledge of tough diplomacy with North Korea is rhetoric that would play well with the Japanese public, but it is unclear what it means in concrete terms.
"Tokyo has no diplomatic or economic relations with North Korea, and has poor relations with Pyongyang's closest ally China, so the most Mr Abe can do is strengthen Japan's defences and stick closely to the US," he added.
The power to revise the constitution comes from the coalition between Mr Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Komeito party, winning 313 of the 465 seats in the lower house of Japan's parliament.
Earlier this year Mr Abe announced he planned to revise a clause, known as Article 9, which renounces war and to formally recognise Japan's military, identified as the "self-defence forces", by 2020. On Monday though, he said it was "not set in a concrete schedule", which suggests he might bring the deadline forward.
He is looking to "form a strong agreement" on these issues with the parties in parliament and to "gain trust" from the public as, should the amendment to the constitution be approved by both houses of parliament, the Japanese public will need to vote on it in a referendum.
This may prove to be difficult after widespread protests two years ago relating to the successful push for a re-interpretation of the constitution that allowed troops to fight overseas under certain circumstances.
Leading up to the election Mr Abe was entangled in political scandals and his popularity plummeted but, once North Korea fired missiles over Hokkaido, he recovered and saw him win the snap election.
With this victory, Mr Abe's chances of securing a third three-year-term in September as leader of the LDP has been given a boost, which means he could become Japan's longest-serving prime minister.