New Komeito head downplays leaving ruling bloc over defense issue

New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi on Monday downplayed the possibility of the junior partner pulling out of Japan's ruling coalition over the controversial issue on whether Japan should exercise the right to collective self-defense.

"There is a difference in views, of course, between the parties but it is important for them to reach an agreement," Yamaguchi told reporters at the prime minister's office.

Last Friday, Yoshio Urushibara, New Komeito's parliamentary affairs chief, stopped short of ruling out that the party could leave the coalition led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, as a result of Abe's push to expand the role of Japan's defense forces.