No time frame preset for decision on collective self-defense: Abe

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday he does not have a specific time frame in mind to decide whether to lift the country's self-imposed ban on exercising the right of collective self-defense.

"At the moment, I don't intend to say until when (a conclusion will be reached)," Abe told reporters accompanying him in New York where he is scheduled to attend the U.N. General Assembly.

Even if the right was to be exercised, the prime minister also said that protecting the lives of Japanese people and property as well as national interests should be considered and that geography is not the determining factor for the Self-Defense Forces to be dispatched amid debate about whether the SDF should go to countries "half a world away."

After taking office in December, Abe resumed a government panel to discuss whether to allow Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under armed attack, with its final report expected by year-end.

On the economic front, Abe said he has "yet to decide on whether to raise the sales tax at present," but added "we need to take steps for low-income earners if the sales tax is raised."

Abe is expected to decide on Oct. 1 whether to raise the sales tax rate in April next year as planned after weighing the strength of the domestic economy against the need for fiscal restoration.

The prime minister also expressed willingness to "support companies raising wages" under the tax system.

Under legislation enacted last year, Japan is set to raise the tax to 8 percent from the current 5 percent, and to 10 percent in October 2015 to secure funds for swelling welfare costs.

The government is now compiling an economic package in an apparent bid to soften the impact of the planned tax hike.