Japan must keep economy strong to proceed with next tax hike: Aso

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said on Wednesday that the country must keep the economy strong this year so that the government can proceed with next sales tax hike to 10 percent.

Japan raised the sales tax to 8 percent from 5 percent in April in an effort to curb the nation's massive public debt.

The government is expected to decide later this year whether to proceed with a planned second sales tax hike to 10 percent in October 2015.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Writing by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Dominic Lau)