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Japanese ministers discuss COVID-19-hit economy, structural reforms, foreign policies in Diet session

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Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso vowed Monday to revive the country’s economy badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and boost structural reforms for the future.

The remarks were made in his speech on the first day of this year’s ordinary parliamentary session. Aso said the government will prevent the number of COVID-19 infections from increasing further “while supporting employment and business.”

Aso said Japan will try to realize “a transformation of the economic structure and a virtuous cycle of the economy toward a post-coronavirus period.”

He also warned of downside risks, saying the Japanese economy is still in a “severe condition”, due to the third wave of the COVID-19 outbreak leading the government to declare the second state of emergency in Tokyo and some other areas earlier this month.

Aso pledged that the government’s efforts to cut expenditures will continue, reiterating the government’s target of bringing its primary balance — tax revenue minus expenses other than debt-servicing costs — into the black by fiscal 2025.

The finance minister also urged his fellow lawmakers to cooperate for a swift passage of the country’s largest-ever 106.61 trillion yen (1.03 trillion United States dollars) draft budget for the next fiscal year.

On the same day, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi criticized a recent South Korean court ruling that ordered the Japanese government to pay compensation to former “comfort women”.

“I will continue to strongly demand an appropriate response by the South Korean side,” Motegi said in a speech at the start of the regular Diet session, adding that the ruling has created an “abnormal” situation.

The ruling over the women, who worked in Japanese military brothels before and during World War II, has again sparked bilateral tensions over wartime labor compensation and trade issues.

(XINHUA)

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