Japan's ruling bloc discusses response to U.S. attack on Syria

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and New Komeito party chief Natsuo Yamaguchi agreed Wednesday that the ruling coalition will monitor decisions by the U.S. administration and Congress regarding a possible military attack on Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons.

During their meeting at the prime minister's office, Abe, leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and Yamaguchi also agreed that the use of chemical weapons cannot be tolerated under any circumstances, the same language that Tokyo has used to express its stance over the crisis in Syria.

They also agreed it is necessary to extend humanitarian support for refugees fleeing Syria to countries like Lebanon, Yamaguchi said after the meeting.

The meeting was held at the request of Yamaguchi to discuss how the ruling bloc will respond in the event that the United States launches a military attack on Syria. Yamaguchi is scheduled to visit the United States next week to meet with Vice President Joseph Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry on Sept. 10 and 11.

After meeting with Yamaguchi, Abe left for Russia to attend a Group of 20 summit meeting from Thursday in St. Petersburg, with the situation in Syria seen as one of the main topics.

U.S. President Barack Obama is seeking approval from Congress to launch a military strike against Syria following a parliamentary vote in Britain against such action. Many Japanese officials believe Tokyo should express its support for its long-time ally in the event of U.S. military intervention.

On the economic front, Abe told Yamaguchi he will make a final decision in early October on whether Japan should go ahead with a hike in the sales tax in April.

"Various steps have been taken (for the decision)," Abe said. The government held panel sessions late last month to hear opinions from various experts on the tax hike plan.

Yamaguchi responded by saying he will leave it up to the prime minister.