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Japan PM Abe pledges reforms to boost economy
[TOKYO] Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday pledged to carry out crucial structural reforms this year as part his drive to kickstart the economy, while stressing the country remained pacifist as he pursues his nationalist agenda.
"This year we will once again make the economy the foremost priority, delivering the warm winds of economic recovery to every corner of the nation," he said in his new year statement, weeks after winning a landslide election.
"We will decisively execute our growth strategy, carrying out economic (stimulus) measures at an early time," he said, referring to reforms such as deregulation in the energy and farm sectors.
Since he first took office in December 2012, Mr Abe said he has tackled various issues including revamping the country's education and social security systems, and diplomatic and security policies.
"All of the reforms I am pursuing are the most drastic reforms since the end of World War II, with very challenging roads ahead," he said.
With a fresh voter mandate given by a general election victory last month, "this year I will push ahead with reforms even more boldly and with an even greater sense of speed", he said.
Mr Abe has embarked on a policy blitz - dubbed "Abenomics" to reinvigorate the economy, with a vast government spending and monetary easing programme. The third "arrow" in his armory are much-needed structural reforms.
Mr Abe, 60, had billed the December 14 election as a referendum on "Abenomics", which has helped exporters by sending the yen sharply lower and boosted stocks.
But his failure to implement some of the tough changes economists say are needed - freeing up the labour market and tackling an inefficient agricultural sector - has left Mr Abe open to the charge that he is pursuing style over substance.
His speech also noted that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and that Japan - with "deep remorse" over its wartime atrocities - "has walked the path of a free and democratic nation and of a consistently peace-loving nation".
His comments come as he seeks warmer ties with old foe China, with which Japan has been engaged in bitter territorial disputes in recent years.
"A we reflect on the past... I wish to make this (year) a year in which we send out to the world a message about the kind of country we aim to be and get off to a dynamic start towards building a 'new Japan'," he said.
He did not detail what a "new Japan" would look like.
Mr Abe last month pledged to pursue his nationalist agenda, including revising the post-war US imposed pacifist constitution and expanding the role of the country's Self-Defense Forces.
Also Thursday, Japanese Emperor Akihito, 81, in his New Year statement stressed the importance of learning about World War II.
"I think it is now extremely important that at this opportunity we fully learn from the history of this war... in thinking about the way Japan should be in the future," Mr Akihito said.