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Japan ruling party stands tough on territorial spat

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s ruling Democratic Party will promise to do its utmost in protecting Japanese territory and putting an end to nuclear power generation by the 2030s, according to draft campaign pledges issued on Tuesday ahead of next month’s election.

An aerial view shows a Japan Coast Guard patrol ship, fishing boats from Taiwan and Taiwan's Coast Guard vessel sailing side by side near Uotsuri island (top), a part of the disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan, Diaoyu in China and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 25, 2012. REUTERS/Kyodo

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is running far behind the biggest opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in opinion polls taken ahead of the Dec 16 parliamentary election.

“We will expand and fortify guard and vigilance carried out mainly by the coast guard, and take all possible measures to protect our land and waters, including the Senkaku islands,” the draft statement, obtained by Reuters, said.

Sino-Japanese ties took a tumble after the Japanese government in September bought disputed East China Sea islets, giving a fresh headache to Noda, already tasked with leading Japan’s recovery from last year’s massive earthquake and tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The rocky, uninhabited islets, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are located near rich fishing grounds and potentially huge oil and gas reserves.

On the DPJ’s energy policy, the draft said: “We will employ all policy resources available so that it will become possible to bring the number of operating nuclear reactors to zero by sometime in the 2030s.”

In contrast, the LDP advocates further debate before setting a new nuclear energy policy for Japan, which depends heavily on imports for its energy needs.

The DPJ’s election pledge draft also repeated existing goals in endeavoring to end deflation by the fiscal year starting April 2014 and achieving nominal economic growth of 3 percent a year on average in the years to 2020.

It also reiterated that a DPJ government will take decisive steps against excessive appreciation of the yen to prevent it from hurting Japan’s export-reliant economy.

On its trade policy, the DPJ’s draft said it will pursue free trade pacts such as the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a controversial issue even among DPJ lawmakers.

Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will not run in the December election because he will not sign a document pledging to back party policies, including support for Japan’s participation in the TPP and a sales tax increase to reduce huge public debt, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Noda is insisting on candidates signing the document to try to avoid the feuds over policy that split the party in the past and led to dozens of defections in recent months.

Hatoyama, scion of a wealthy political family and a co-founder of the DPJ, quit as prime minister after less than a year in office. His support had plummeted after he first raised, then dashed, local hopes of relocating a controversial U.S. Marine airbase in Japan’s southern island of Okinawa.

Reporting by Shinji Kitamura, writing by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Linda Sieg; Editing by Ron Popeski