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Noda vows to make gov't, DPJ work as one toward sales tax hike.

TOKYO, Feb. 24 Kyodo

(EDS: TO BE UPDATED)

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda promised Friday to make the government and the Democratic Party of Japan work as one toward a planned sales tax hike, amid widespread opposition from lawmakers within the ruling party.

In an interview with reporters of the Cabinet press club, the premier expressed his willingness to meet former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa if necessary as the party heavyweight has blasted Noda for planning to raise the politically sensitive consumption tax rate.

''I made a decision after adequate discussions. I'll continue to make efforts for the government and the ruling party to work together,'' Noda said, adding, ''If necessary, I'll ask a favor of whoever'' opposes the sales tax hike.

Noda, who took office in September, has vowed to submit bills to parliament by the end of March to raise the 5 percent consumption tax rate in two stages, to 8 percent in April 2014 and 10 percent in October 2015 to cover the nation's swelling social security costs.

Ozawa, who heads the largest intraparty group, on Thursday threatened to take action to overthrow Noda's Cabinet if the prime minister dissolves the House of Representatives for a general election to carry through the tax hike, DPJ lawmakers said.

Noda said in the interview that he is ''not mulling'' dissolving the lower house soon.

The Cabinet last week approved an outline of integrated social security and tax reforms to pave the way for the sales tax hike.

But it remains uncertain whether Noda will be able to fulfill the pledge he made at the Group of 20 summit in France last year to lift the consumption tax rate as the opposition camp has also rebuffed his calls for cross-party talks on the reforms.

The opposition bloc's cooperation is required for the passage of legislation in the divided Diet, where the ruling party lacks a majority in the House of Councillors.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Feb 27, 2012
Words:320
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