Prime Minister Shinzo Abe opened the extraordinary Diet session on Oct. 4 by promising to widen the social security safety net and address concerns about higher taxes and trade in agricultural products.

But he again stressed that perhaps the most important thing in the new Reiwa Era is revising the pacifist Constitution.

The prime minister urged lawmakers to seriously debate constitutional amendments, a key goal of the prime minister.

“When thinking about what kind of nation Japan wants to become that is most appropriate for the Reiwa Era, I believe the ideal forum for holding such discussions is the Constitution Commissions (of the Diet),” Abe said in his policy speech.

The new era began on May 1 with the ascension of Emperor Naruhito to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Abe also congratulated Yasuhiko Funago, a member of the Reiwa Shinsengumi party, on winning a Diet seat in the July Upper House election.

Funago has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, but he and a party colleague, Eiko Kimura, will be attending the Diet session in wheelchairs while accompanied by helpers.

Abe said their participation in the Diet highlights the importance of promoting the dynamic engagement of all citizens, a policy theme his administration has focused on.

He also touched upon the importance of reforming the social security safety net so that it covers all households.

“We will seek to create a social security structure where all generations, from children to the elderly, can live with peace of mind,” Abe said.

Referring to the Oct. 1 increase in the consumption tax rate from 8 percent to 10 percent, Abe said attention would be focused on any possible negative effects on personal consumption.

He said domestic consumption would be supported by various measures, including a gift certificate program for low-income households.

On the government’s foreign policy, Abe mentioned the conclusion of negotiations with the United States in September over a new trade agreement, which he described as a “win-win” situation for both nations.

But because major reductions in Japanese tariffs on U.S. farm exports are included in the package, Abe said, “We will squarely face any of the remaining concerns that may be held by Japanese farmers.”

The prime minister said he was resolved to hold a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with no prior conditions attached.

Abe also described South Korea as an “important neighbor” but said he would continue to ask that Seoul abide by past promises made with Tokyo.

He was referring to the 1965 bilateral treaty that Japan says finalized settlements of wartime compensation claims. The Japanese government has cited the treaty in criticizing South Korean Supreme Court rulings that have ordered Japanese companies to pay compensation to former wartime laborers from the Korean Peninsula.

Regarding criticism that arose over the extended blackouts in Chiba Prefecture following Typhoon No. 15 in September, Abe said a thorough assessment would be made of the measures taken to deal with that national disaster.