Abe plans snap election in Japan amid Korea crisis

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe explains why he will dissolve the Lower House during a news conference held on Sept. 25

Abe and his coalition partners already had a two-thirds majority in the lower house from the 2014 general elections.

Abe's administration has rebounded recently from low opinion ratings following a summer political scandal.

"By holding an election at this time, I want to ask the people's view on how we are dealing with North Korea".

Abe is expected to hold a news conference after meeting with party executives and will likely put pledges to spend on education and child care, stay tough on North Korea and revise the constitution at the forefront of his campaign.

There was "not much enthusiasm for Abe or his policies", acknowledged the expert.

Abe's image as a strong leader has bolstered his ratings amid rising tension over North Korea's nuclear arms and missile programs and overshadowed opposition criticism of the premier for suspected cronyism scandals that had eroded his support.

Abe's conservative LDP party is seen as clear victor of a national vote, with a recent survey showing 44 percent would vote for the current prime minister compared to eight percent for the main opposition Democratic Party.

The LDP was crushed by Koike's Tokyo Citizens First party in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election in July; her new party will field candidates in all constituencies in not only Tokyo, but across the country.

On Monday, just hours before Abe's election announcement, Tokyo Governor Koike said she would lead a new conservative, reform-minded "Party of Hope" to offer voters an alternative to the LDP.

"Voters are highly sensitive to what is going on in North Korea and very anxious about these developments and I think that is pushing them to support Abe", Professor Kingston said.

Koike, an Arabic-speaking former news anchor who was also briefly the country's first-ever female defense minister, became the mayor of Tokyo a year ago.

He said fostering human resources and improving productivity would be two pillars of his Cabinet's policies, adding that the government will compile a policy package worth 2 trillion yen (18 billion US dollars) to boost support for child care and education. More than 42% said they were undecided.

Among the priorities of Abe's government is the removal of Japan's fiscal deficit by 2020 through an increase in a consumption tax.

At the press conference, the prime minster also raised the issue of North Korea's nuclear and missile development. A Kyodo News poll taken over the weekend showed that 64 percent of the respondents opposed Abe dissolving the Lower House now as opposed to 23 percent who supported it.

Mr Abe said: "I expect opposition criticism is going to focus on (the scandals), and it's going to be a very hard election".