By Tetsushi Kajimoto and Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO (Reuters) -Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida vowed on Monday to ensure worker wage hikes to protect the economy from rising global inflation, while strengthening the country’s defences as it deals with an assertive China and unpredictable North Korea.
Kishida made the remarks on the opening day of parliament’s extra session convened to debate a supplementary budget to cushion the blow from the COVID-19 pandemic as he aims to restore the economy and then tackle fiscal reform.
Wage hikes hold the key to the premier’s aim of defeating deflation by reversing a cycle of tame wage growth and weak consumer spending while encouraging Japanese firms to spend their record cash piles on boosting wages and investment.
Since he took office in October, Kishida has piled pressure on Japanese firms, urging those whose earnings have recovered to pre-pandemic levels to raise wages by 3% or more.
The government will lay the groundwork to help private-sector firms hike wages by strengthening taxation and give bold deductions for companies that raise pay, he added.
“As anxiety has grown that rising global inflation may have ripple effects on Japan, I will do the utmost to (realise) wage hikes in order to protect the Japanese economy,” Kishida said.
On security policy, Japan will fundamentally strengthen its defence posture by looking into options including acquiring the capability to strike enemy bases, Kishida said.
“In order to safeguard the people’s lives and livelihood, we’ll examine all the options including capability to attack enemy bases … and strengthen our defence posture fundamentally with a sense of speed,” Kishida said.
Such capability would mark a shift in Japan’s military posture as Tokyo, constrained by its post-World War II pacifist constitution, is to play a role of the shield in its security alliance with the United States, while Washington is to play a role of the spear.
Obtaining capabilities to strike enemy bases has been floated in recent Japanese governments and Kishida was warm to the idea even when he was running in an ruling party leadership election in September as missiles become increasingly capable of evading interceptors.
As part of effort to boost Japan’s defence capacity, the government will renew three main documents laying out the nation’s security policy – the National Security Strategy, National Defence Programme Guidelines and Medium-Term Defence Programme – in a year, Kishida said.
On Japan’s coronavirus response, Kishida said he planned to make it possible to get a booster shot without waiting for the end of the current waiting period, set by the government, of eight months after the second shot.
Calls for early booster shots have been mounting in Japan as the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading globally, although daily COVID-19 cases have remained low in recent weeks.
If infections start picking up pace again, the government will respond swiftly with such measures as stricter restrictions on activities, “while seeking the people’s understanding carefully,” Kishida said.
His policy of promptly taking anti-coronavirus steps appears to have paid off as voter support for his cabinet ticked up after the government last week enforced tighter border controls against Omicron, the Yomiuri Shimbun daily said on Monday.
($1 = 113.2800 yen)
(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto, Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)