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PM Abe says will stay focused on Japan economy

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday said he will spend the next three years rebuilding the nation's fragile economy, having banished the gloom that covered Japan when he came to power.

Marking his sixth month since taking office, the conservative ideologue told a press conference that he was determined to gain full control of the legislature by winning an upper house election next month, giving him elbow room to push for reforms.

Abe's ruling bloc is expected to bag a comfortable victory in the poll, slated for July 21.

The likely win would give his Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner New Komeito the majority of the both chambers of the Diet, essentially taking away legislative obstacles for the premier for three years until the next national vote.

"A country that has lost economic strength cannot sustain its strength as a nation state. It cannot exercise its diplomatic and security strength," Abe said.

"To regain the country's strength, to regain national pride, I think I must focus on regaining our economic strength," he said.

"In the three years of stable politics, I will basically focus on it," Abe said.

Since taking office in December, Abe has launched an economic policy blitz dubbed "Abenomics", which blends massive monetary easing, big fiscal spending and a series of reforms aimed at freeing up businesses.

Japan's sleep-walking economy -- the world's third largest -- has been given a jolt by the moves, with the yen shedding some of its export-sapping strength and the stock market putting in the best performance in the developed world this year.

"The gloomy atmosphere that blanketed Japan half a year ago has changed dramatically," he told Wednesday's press conference.

"The economy is getting better. Our policies are not wrong. I am sure this is the only way," he said.

Some analysts argue that improving the economy is a means to an end and a win in July will see Abe getting back on his hobby horse somewhere down the line, drafting a new constitution, promoting patriotism among schoolchildren and reassessing Japan's wartime history.

His detractors say this risks further irritating already inflamed relationships with China and South Korea.

But over the last half-year he has largely side-stepped contentious issues like these, staying mainly on the economic message.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130626/pm-abe-says-will-stay-focused-japan-economy