Abe: Pressure only option for North Korea

North Koreans watch missiles

JAPANESE Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to announce a snap election on Monday, capitalising on a surge of support for his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and an opposition party in disarray.

Mr Abe, in power for five years, said he needed a mandate to shift some revenues from a planned future tax hike to social spending such as education, besides seeking support for a tough stance toward North Korea's repeated missile and nuclear tests. He added that he would resign as Prime Minister if his party failed to win a majority. The prime minister did not give a date for the vote but it is widely expected to be October 22.

Addressing the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, Mr Abe said "there is not much time left" to take action on North Korea, which in recent weeks has detonated a sixth nuclear bomb and fired a series of missiles over or near Japan.

The government and the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito party have approved Abe's plan to disband the House of Representatives at the outset of the upcoming parliament session without the prime minister making a policy speech, ruling party sources said.

Abe has served a total of nearly six years as prime minister: he had a truncated term a decade ago, coming back to power in a landslide in 2012.

"I am against such threats", said Dr Merkel, who has been openly critical of Mr Trump in the run-up to Germany's election on Sunday.

Analysts believe that given the lacklustre opposition, voter backlash would not hurt him to the extent that it did British Prime Minister Theresa May, whose gamble in June cost her party its majority.

"For Mr. Abe, now is the time".

In July, his ratings had dropped to less than 30% but then recovered to above 50% in September.

Shortly before Abe told LDP members of his dissolution plan, Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike said she is establishing a new national-level political party called the "Kibo" (Hope) party. The total number of seats is set to be cut to 465 in the next election as part of a reform aimed at reducing the excessive weight given to rural votes under the current system.

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