Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he thinks he can reach a deal with the opposition to double the 5 percent sales tax in order to reduce the world’s largest public debt and to secure its social security system. “I believe we can come to an understanding,” Noda told journalists from overseas media organizations in Tokyo Saturday. The combination of an aging society and a declining birthrate has put Japan in an “unprecedented situation” as the government seeks to rein in soaring welfare costs, Noda said. The proposal by Noda would raise the sales tax from 5 percent to 8 percent in April 2014 and to 10 percent in October 2015. The government panel led by Finance Minister Jun Azumi told reporters that the government planned to submit related bills to parliament in March. An aging population and two decades of low growth have saddled Japan with debt projected to exceed 1 quadrillion yen ($13 trillion) in the current fiscal year. But the legislation is expected to face a rocky road as opposition parties, as well as some lawmakers in Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan(DPJ), are against it. Disaster Recovery Noda also cited progress made in rebuilding from the March 11 record earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s northeast, leaving almost 20,000 dead or missing and causing meltdowns at three reactors of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima power plant. “Infrastructure and the economy in the disaster areas are steadily recovering and supply chains for manufacturing have recovered completely,” Noda said. “Mining and manufacturing output has returned to above pre-disaster levels.” Only two of Japan’s 54 nuclear power reactors are operating as the facilities undergo stress tests to ensure their safety, raising the prospect of power shortages during Japan’s summer. Noda declined to say when or whether any of the plants will be restarted.