Japan PM defends a divided coalition

TOKYO - Japan's new Prime Minister yesterday defended his coalition's ability to govern and promised to deliver results soon on his government's pledges to revive an ailing economy and clean up Japanese political life.

In what was seen as a final decision on the issue of the Second World War, Morihiro Hosokawa said his government would not pay additional war reparations to victims of Japan's military expansionism up to 1945 despite its 'deep remorse and apology about aggressive war and colonial rule'.

The opposition leader, Yohei Kono, whose Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lost its 38-year hold on power to the coalition, poked fun at the new government at the start of three days of questions in parliament. Mr Kono, a popular liberal in the conservative LDP, cited discord among coalition leaders over the planned purchase of Awacs (airborne warning and control system) jets from the United States.

An impassive Mr Hosokawa, reading from a prepared script, denied there were cracks in his coalition. 'There is no disunity within my government,' Mr Hosokawa said. 'What's going on is an exchange of opinion, which I think is a good thing.'

Mr Hosokawa, who enjoys 70-80 per cent support along with his cabinet, said he would strive within the year to pass laws to overhaul Japan's political and electoral system after years of abuse and corruption scandals. With his coalition still feuding over the details, he was unable to be specific.

Mr Hosokawa said he was concerned about the yen's rapid rise after it reached a high of 100.40 to the dollar last week. He also repeated an earlier pledge to unveil measures aimed a improving economic growth and reducing Japan's politically sensitive trade surplus with the United States.

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