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Abe says overcoming deflation not easy, victory in July polls vital


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday pledged to devote the next three years to pulling the Japanese economy out of decades of deflation, and said winning next month's national election is vital to take control of the opposition-dominated upper house to follow through on his policy prescriptions.

"It's not an easy task for a country to overcome 15 years of deflation...I'd say it's a historic task," Abe said at a press conference.

"For the next three years, I'll concentrate on that (overcoming deflation) by ensuring political stability," Abe said, adding that the economy has surely improved but "the hard part" lies ahead.

Abe was speaking after the opposition-controlled upper house passed a last-minute censure motion against him on the final day of the first Diet session since he took office in late December. Political parties are gearing up for the crucial House of Councillors election, which is expected on July 21.

The prime minister said ending the so-called "divided Diet" would help accelerate economic growth. The ruling coalition's landslide victory in last Sunday's Tokyo metropolitan assembly election came as a vote of confidence as the ruling bloc aims to secure an overall majority in the upper house.

Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner the New Komeito party secured a majority in the House of Representatives in a general election last December. But they need to rely on opposition support to pass legislation in the House of Councillors.

His relatively high support stemmed primarily from public expectations over his economic policies dubbed "Abenomics" that comprise the "three arrows" of massive fiscal stimulus, bold monetary easing and a growth strategy.

Abe, known for his hawkish stance both at home and abroad, has expressed his desire to revise the Constitution that currently bans exercising the right to collective self-defense.

But he has apparently toned down his rhetoric on such controversial issues and is trying to play it safe heading into July as he called for a much deeper and broader national debate on Wednesday.

"We need to carefully discuss what article (of the Constitution) we are going to change and how we are going to change it" while gaining support from the public, Abe said.

During the press conference, the prime minister reiterated his intention to better contribute to global nuclear safety standards and export Japanese nuclear power equipment and technology, one of the key areas of his growth strategy.

Most of Japan's nuclear power plants are offline due to the 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.