Abe pledges to ensure economic recovery, political stability

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he will achieve a stable government so people can feel the benefits of economic recovery through his policies, as his Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner regained control of the upper house after Sunday's election.

"Japanese voters expect us to have a political process that is decisive and move ahead with our economic policies," Abe said on a television program.

"The economy is surely improving, and I want people to feel the benefits as soon as possible by creating a virtuous cycle" in which improved employment conditions lead to pay rises and more consumer spending, he said.

With his victory Abe can finally dispel the bitter memory of his crushing defeat in the 2007 House of Councillors election that resulted in a divided Diet in which the upper house was controlled by opposition parties, hampering the smooth passage of bills.

His economic policies dubbed "Abenomics" combining bold monetary easing by the Bank of Japan, massive fiscal stimulus and a growth strategy centering on deregulation have so far won general public support, and attention may now focus on whether he will pursue his long-held goal of revising the Constitution.

"We cannot amend the Constitution without gaining approval from the Japanese people. For this reason, it is necessary to have a broad and deep debate about the Constitution," Abe said.

Given Tokyo's frayed ties with Beijing over the status of the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands claimed by China, and with South Korea over divergent views on the history of Japan's colonization and wartime aggression, the prime minister did not say whether he would visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15, the anniversary of the end of World War II.

"It is natural to pay homage to those who fought for Japan but I'm not going to say whether or not I will go," Abe said, as it could develop into a "diplomatic issue." As for his Cabinet ministers, "they need to decide based on their own beliefs," he said.

The Shinto shrine honors war criminals among the war dead, and past visits by Japanese prime ministers have angered China and South Korea in particular.