Japan's Abe announces snap election amid worries over North Korea


Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called a snap election, with the parliament to be dissolved on Thursday (local time).

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will send voters to the polls more than a year ahead of schedule after announcing snap elections for Japan's parliament.

"I want the Japanese people to believe that there is hope for tomorrow", she said at a televised press conference.

Surveys suggest voters approve of nationalist Abe's hardline stance on North Korea, which fired two missiles over the country in the space of a month and has threatened to "sink" Japan.

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Opposition parties have criticised Mr Abe's expected decision, arguing there is no reason for an early dissolution of the lower chamber before the current term expires in December 2018 and describing the move as an attempt to avoid grilling over cronyism allegations levelled at the prime minister in Diet deliberations.

"The nonproliferation regime is about to suffer a serious blow from its most confident disrupter ever", Abe said, criticizing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who is the chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea.

Abe has served as Japan's prime minister for almost six years.

The Prime Minister also said he was seeking a mandate to funnel the revenues from the sales tax increase scheduled for October 2019 into increased spending on social security and education, instead of debt reduction.

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In the previous 2014 election, he lost to Kenji Eda, former deputy president of the main opposition Democratic Party, in the No. 8 constituency of Kanagawa Prefecture.

His ratings have risen to around 50 percent from around 30 percent in July.

While the Democratic Party is splintering, Abe faces a challenge from a new party set up by an associate of popular Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who has a history of local election victories over the premier's party.

But he was given a lower house seat in the southern Kanto bloc through proportional representation.

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A new poll carried out by Japan's Kyodo news agency has shown that nearly two-thirds of voters are against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling a snap election.