Abe vows to 'deal firmly' with N. Korea

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Japanese leader on track for resounding election win

TOKYO Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe swept to a resounding victory in a snap election yesterday and immediately vowed to "deal firmly" with threats from North Korea that dominated the campaign.

Mr Abe's conservative coalition was on track to win 311 seats in the 465-seat parliament, according to a projection from private broadcaster TBS, putting the nationalist premier on course to become Japan's longest-serving leader.

The resounding election win is likely to stiffen Mr Abe's resolve to tackle North Korea's nuclear threat, as the US' key regional ally seeks to exert maximum pressure on Pyongyang after it fired two missiles over Japan in the space of a month.

"As I promised in the election, my imminent task is to firmly deal with North Korea," Mr Abe said. "For that, strong diplomacy is required."

The 63-year-old was heading for a "landslide win", the top-selling Yomiuri daily said on its website, as the premier's gamble to hold a snap election appeared to be paying off.

But it was unclear in the immediate aftermath of the vote whether his coalition would retain its two-thirds "supermajority," requiring 310 seats, as some media had it falling just short.

A "supermajority" would allow Mr Abe to propose changes to pacifist Japan's United States-imposed constitution that forces it to renounce war and effectively limits its military to a self-defence role.

Abe said he would "deepen" debate on the divisive issue in parliament but stressed: "I don't plan to propose (changes) via the ruling bloc alone. We'll make efforts to gain support from as many people as possible." - AFP

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