Japan's 'Happy Science' sect launches political party

It calls N.Korea a "yakuza" as its leader likens himself to Barack Obama.

AFP/May 25, 2009

Tokyo - Japan's "Happy Science" religious sect entered national politics Monday by urging Prime Minister Taro Aso to retire, calling North Korea a "yakuza" state and vowing to boost the country's military.

The Buddhist-inspired sect's Jikido Aeba, 42, also likened himself to US President Barack Obama as he launched the Happiness Realisation Party ahead of national elections this year, which he pledged to win.

His press conference coincided with Pyongyang's nuclear test.

"Today we saw the news that North Korea conducted a second nuclear test," said Aeba, whose Kofuku-no-Kagaku (Happy Science) sect hands out pamphlets and seeks new followers outside Tokyo railway stations.

The group pledged to revise Japan's post-war pacifist constitution and "build the defence capability to counter the North's missile launches".

"We believe Japanese diplomacy is way too weak," said the new party's chief spokesman Soken Kobayashi, 50. "We believe Kim Jong-Il is a yakuza (gangster). We have to take a yakuza-like measure to deal with a yakuza."

The party said it planned to field candidates in all of Japan's more than 300 constituencies in elections which must be called before October, while calling on Aso and main opposition leader Yukio Hatoyama to retire.

"I myself want to steer Japan as the next prime minister, as Japan's Barack Obama," Aeba declared, standing before a sign that read "Start! Japanese Dream!"

The sect, founded by Ryuho Ohkawa in 1986, says it has some 10 million members worldwide but refuses to unveil the size of its following in Japan. His religious group wouldn't be the first to seek a role in Japanese politics.

The Buddhist-backed New Komeito party is a governing coalition partner with Aso's conservative Liberal Democratic Party.

Doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo tried but failed to send members to parliament before it launched the Tokyo subway sarin gas attacks in 1995.

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