17 Dec 2012

Tough stance vowed in disputes with China

11:26 am on 17 December 2012

Liberal Democratic Party leader Shinzo Abe has vowed in Japan to take a tough stance in territorial disputes with China.

Exit polls indicate a decisive victory for the LDP in the general election on Sunday.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has conceded defeat and resigned as head of the Democratic Party of Japan. The DPJ has been in power for three years.

Mr Abe said he wanted to "stop the challenge" from China over a chain of islands claimed by both countries.

The eight disputed islands are in the East China Sea. The BBC reports they are known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China. They are uninhabited but strategically important.

Mr Abe said the islands were Japan's "inherent territory" and it was his party's objective was "to stop the challenge" from China.

"We don't intend to worsen relations between Japan and China," he said, adding that both sides "need to share the recognition that having good relations is in the national interests of both countries".

"China lacks this recognition a little bit. I want them to think anew about mutually beneficial strategic relations," he said.

Acknowledging Mr Abe's victory, the Xinhua news agency in China warned that an "economically weak and politically angry Japan will not only hurt the country, but also hurt the region and the world at large.

It urged Japan's leaders to take a "rational stand on foreign policy" rather than "pandering to domestic hawkish views and picking fights with its neighbours".

Mr Abe also told Nippon TV he wanted to deepen ties with Asian nations, including India and Australia, and to boost Japan's struggling economy.

"We have promised to pull Japan out of deflation and correct a strong yen. The situation is severe, but we need to do this," he said.

The BBC reports the LDP was in power for almost 50 years of unbroken rule until 2009. Mr Abe previously served as Japanese prime minister between 2006 - 2007.

Exit polls show the LDP won nearly 300 of the 480 seats in the lower house. The DPJ won only 65 seats, a fifth of its tally in 2009.