Japanese PM opens Diet for first time since election

17:17, October 26, 2009      

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Japan's Foreign Minister Katsyua Okada (L) and National Strategy Minister Naoto Kan applaud Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama after his first speech to parliament at its lower house in Japan, October 26, 2009. Hatoyama pledged on Monday to consider ways to keep the country's ballooning debt in control over the long term, while protecting the weak from harsh economic competition.(Xinhua/Agencies Photo)

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Monday opened the nation's parliament, the Diet, for the first time since his party swept the Aug. 30 election, calling for politicians to listen to the electorate and for politics to change.

Delivering his speech to rapturous applause from his party, many of whom were elected for the first time in August, Hatoyama said the party should "create a politics of fraternity" and focus more on social welfare spending, while eliminating such practices as "amakudari," which sees senior bureaucrats take jobs in semi-public companies after retiring from their government jobs.

The Diet was opened on Monday for a 36-day extraordinary session, during which the DPJ will attempt to pass 17 bills, including one that will freeze the privatization of Japan Post.

On Monday, however, Hatoyama's speech spelled out the long-term intentions of the government.

On relations with the United States, Hatoyama said he hoped to deepen relations with Japan's ally, but for agreements between the two countries to be "more equal."

The DPJ has created tension with the Obama administration by suggesting it will not honor a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States, and would like to return to the negotiating table on the issue.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama delivers his policy speech at Parliament in Tokyo, Japan, Monday, Oct. 26, 2009. Hatoyama declared Monday that reviving the nation's sluggish economy is top priority for his government and stressed seeking 'close and equal' ties with the U.S. in a speech outlining his main policy goals to parliament.(Xinhua/Agencies Photo)

On the recession, Hatoyama said that "things are still in an unpredictable state," in Japan.

"We need to decide whether to go down a declining path or find a new road," he added.

To that end, Hatoyama emphasized the need to implement policy pledges outlined in the manifesto that the DPJ campaigned on this summer. In the manifesto, the DPJ pledged to help small- and medium-size businesses to stay afloat during the recession and provide more money to young families.

Hatoyama also spoke about the need to combat climate change.

He said his party would try to gain a global agreement to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 25 percent using 1990 levels as a base.

The prime minister also promised to try to resolve the issue of the abduction of Japanese citizens to DPRK and to aim for global nuclear disarmament by 2020.

The priority for the DPJ between now and next spring will be changing the budget for fiscal 2010.

To this end, Hatoyama said: "Once we have decided how to spend money to best protect Japanese people, we will consider how to change the way that the government uses its finances in this country."

The opening of the Diet on Monday came a day after the DPJ posted two victories in by elections for upper house seats in Shizuoka and Kanagawa prefectures.

Since coming to power, Hatoyama and his government have been riding high in opinion polls, with a support rate of around 70 percent.

Hatoyama received a standing ovation at the end of his speech, his first as prime minister. The Diet will open on Wednesday.

Source: Xinhua
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