Abe called for snap elections
Japan's prime minister has called for snap elections and delayed a controversial sales tax increase, as part of efforts to solidify his political support and fight off recession.
At a news conference Tuesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced he will dissolve parliament this week and hold elections next month, two years ahead of schedule.
No exact date for the election was given, but Japanese media reported it likely will be held sometime in mid-December, possibly December 14.
Mr. Abe also said he will put off raising the country's consumption tax for another 18 months, until April 2017.
The moves were expected after data on Monday showed Tokyo unexpectedly fell back into recession in the third quarter. Japan's economy has struggled following an initial sales tax hike in April.
The tax increases are part of the prime minister's efforts to reduce Japan's massive national debt, which is among the largest in the industralized world.
Mr. Abe took office in 2012, promising to improve the slumping economy through massive public stimulus spending and reforms. The plan is often called "Abenomics."
Despite the struggling economy, Mr. Abe's approval ratings remain relatively high. His Liberal Democratic Party has a solid majority in parliament and could stand to gain further ground with an early vote.
Kerry, Zarif Say Iran Nuclear Deal Possible as Deadline Draws Near
Secretary of State John Kerry says he is hopeful the U.S. and group of five other world powers can reach a deal with Iran on the country's nuclear program, but that he will not make any predictions.
Negotiators from Iran and the so-called P5+1 group that includes the U.S., Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany are meeting again Tuesday in Vienna.
They have less than a week to reach an agreement before their November 24 deadline.
Speaking Tuesday alongside British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Kerry called this week's talks "critical."
Iranian media quoted Foreign Minister Javad Zarif saying Tuesday that a deal is still possible and expressing caution toward the international side to not make "excessive demands" of Iran.