TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday delivered his first policy speech since last month's general election, promising to "rid the country of deflation once and for all."
Abe pledged to use all policy tools, including tax reforms and deregulation, to push up wages in order to put an end to the country's persistent deflation.
The prime minister also expressed hopes for further discussions on amending the constitution in his speech, made before plenary sessions of both chambers of parliament.
On the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Abe said he would "increase pressure on North Korea along with the international community" in order to deal with Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development programs as well as to resolve the issue of Japanese citizens abducted and taken to the country.
"I will work to strengthen our missile defenses and other defense capabilities, and do my best to protect the people and their peaceful lives."
Referring to constitutional amendment, the prime minister called for the exchange of ideas and cooperation to find answers to difficult questions. "Discussions on revising the constitution will enable [us] to move forward," he said.
On trade, Abe said he would "aim for an early enactment" of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement without the U.S. He also described an economic partnership agreement with the European Union, which has been agreed in principle, as "a new engine" of his signature Abenomics policy package.
During the speech, Abe touted the importance of implementing productivity reforms and a free education program as drivers to get the country out of deflation. Both were included in his campaign promises before last month's election.
To boost productivity, the government would invest intensively over the next three years until fiscal 2020 to "strongly encourage businesses, including small and midsize companies, to make capital investments and invest in people," he said.
As for his policy aimed at "people development," he pledged to make kindergartens and child care centers free for all children aged between three and five, and for children up to the age of two in low-income families. He also laid out plans to provide care for 320,000 children without access to such services.