Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed in a New Year message to focus his newly appointed Cabinet’s efforts on reviving the country’s economy, which has shrunk almost 10 percent over the past half-decade.
“Japan’s most pressing task is to free itself from deflation and the strong yen so an economic recovery can occur,” he said in a statement distributed to reporters.
The Japanese currency in 2012 was set to close out its biggest annual decline in seven years, after reaching a postwar high in 2011 that eroded the competitiveness of the country’s exporters. Japan also remains mired in deflation, with consumer prices excluding fresh food dropping 0.1 percent in November from a year earlier.
Abe also said Japan will maintain a heightened level of security in response to “incidents” last year concerning airspace and territorial waters.
Japan dispatched F-15 fighter jets on Dec. 13 after a Chinese marine surveillance propeller plane flew through Japanese-controlled airspace around uninhabited islands in the East China Sea claimed by both countries. China filed a report with the United Nations on Dec. 14 arguing its sovereignty over the islands, known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.
“We will resolutely maintain our legitimate borders,” Abe said. “We will defend our land, airspace and territorial waters and our citizens’ lives and property.”
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