Opposition rejects Japan deputy PM request over tax hike: Media

TOKYO - Japan's main opposition party has rejected a request to join a coalition with the government to push through a sales tax increase, media reported on Saturday, another setback for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in his battle to fix the country's tattered finances.

The request was made by Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada this month to senior officials in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Jiji news agency quoted an unnamed LDP official as saying.

Noda has staked his political career on enacting the tax bills. But the ruling Democratic Party of Japan does not have enough seats in the upper house to make them law without the backing of some opposition parties.

The report follows comments to Reuters last week by ruling party powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa, who threatened to vote against the tax bills.

If Noda backs down or the proposals to raise taxes fail to find sufficient support, he may be forced to resign, giving Japan its seventh prime minister since 2006 and continued policy paralysis.

Rating agencies have pointed to Japan's political paralysis as a factor in downgrading its sovereign debt and warned of further downgrades if the gridlock persists.

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