TOKYO, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- Nine lawmakers of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) who submitted their resignations from the party last month launched a new party called Kizuna on Wednesday to counter plans by the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to raise the nation's sales tax and join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade consortium.
Akira Uchiyama, a former parliamentary secretary of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, who was elected three times as a House of Representatives member from the Chiba Constituency, will head the party, with Koichiro Watanabe, a two- term lower house member, assuming the role as the party's secretary-general.
Juntaro Toyoda, elected from the proportional-representation Kinki district, will head up the party's Diet affairs committee, while Yasunori Saito from Miyagi Prefecture will be the party's policy chief, sources close to the matter said Wednesday.
Saito is a member of an intraparty group led by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, while his counterparts belong to a large group headed by former DPJ President and party power broker Ichiro Ozawa.
With the exception of Uchiyama and Watanabe, the other seven members are all in either their first or second terms as Diet members.
The nine defectors all believe that Noda's planned sales tax hike contravenes the DPJ's 2009 manifesto and are opposed to the Noda administration's plans to be involved in negotiations on Japan's involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade arrangement.
The party has also spoken out about the government's recent decision to resume construction of the controversial Yanba Dam in Gunma Prefecture, claiming this also runs contrary to the DPJ's policy pledges and manifesto that saw the ruling DPJ oust the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party from power in 2009.
The launch of the new party will deal another blow to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda who is grappling to hold together an increasingly fractious party at a time of increasing opposition pressure to dissolve the lower house of parliament and call a snap election over his controversial sales tax hike plans.
The plans call for Japan's sales tax to be doubled from its current five percent to 10 percent by 2015, with an interim hike to eight percent in 2014.
Noda himself indicated in a national new year's address Wednesday that relations were strained within the ruling party and a Cabinet reshuffle was imminent to replace disgraced Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa over a spat of gaffes made about U.S. Marines being in Okinawa Prefecture and remove consumer affairs minister Kenji Yamaoka from his current post.
Both were slapped with censure motions by Japan's upper house of parliament last month, but the move will drive a further wedge through an already splintered DPJ as Ichikawa and Yamaoka's appointment's were originally made to show party unity as both ministers belong to a powerful DPJ intraparty group headed by the party's "shadow shogun" Ichiro Ozawa.
As the rift in the DPJ widens, main opposition Liberal Democratic Party leader Sadakazu Tanigaki on Wenesday lambasted the prime minister for his pledges made earlier in the day.
"Noda's proposal to increase the consumption tax rate is in violation of the DPJ's policy pledges during the 2009 general election," the LDP chief said.
Tanigaki told local reporters following Noda's address that the DPJ leader should dissolve the lower house of parliament and call a snap election.
"The DPJ has no right to propose raising the sales tax rate and Prime Minister Noda cannot do it unless he goes to the people," Tanigaki was quoted by local media as saying in Ise City, Mie Prefecture.
For Noda's part however, and in response to the defectors' forming of a new party which plans to obstruct the prime minister' s signature policies, the prime minister who must cajole support from opposition members who control Japan's upper house of parliament, said he hopes the DPJ can continue to work together in unison.
"It's regrettable, but we, the DPJ, will work in concert down the road to grapple with the challenges Japan is encountering," Noda said of the issue. "I want all ministers to work as one," the prime minister said.
The number of DPJ members and DPJ-affiliated lawmakers in Japan 's more powerful lower house of parliament will now fall to 293.
The new party's name "Kizuna" means solidarity or bonds between people and was a widely used word in the days, weeks and months following the devastating March 11 earthquake which struck Japan's northeast coast and triggered a killer tsunami that sparked a monumental nuclear crisis.