Japan's PM stresses US ties, need to restore fiscal health

TOKYO, June 8, 2010 (AFP) - Japan's new Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Tuesday vowed to make Japan a "more vigorous country," restore its public finances and maintain the US alliance as the "cornerstone" of its diplomacy.

The new centre-left premier, set to be sworn in later in the day, signalled he wants to rebuild US ties strained by a damaging row over a US airbase that cost his predecessor Yukio Hatoyama his job last week.

Japan's new Prime Minister Naoto Kan speaks during a news conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on June 8, 2010. AFP photo

"I think it is necessary to firmly continue the principle that the Japan-US security alliance is the cornerstone" of Tokyo's diplomacy, Kan said, after speaking with President Barack Obama in a weekend telephone call.

Hatoyama stepped down after reneging on an election pledge to move the unpopular Futenma marine airbase off southern Okinawa island, giving in to Washington's demands while enraging locals and splitting his ruling coalition.

Kan said: "About the Futenma issue .. Japan and the United States have reached an agreement and we have to work based on that, but I will do my best to ease the burden for the people of Okinawa."

Kan in his inaugural address also said Japan's economic bubble had burst 20 years ago and the country now suffers 30,000 suicides a year, and pledged: "I want to rehabilitate Japan drastically and create a vigorous country."

With public debt nearing twice the size of gross domestic product, he pledged that "rebuilding financial health is essential for Japan's economy".

With the government issuing record bonds to cover its outlays, Kan said: "We are continuing to gather debt. This problem should be handled as the country's biggest topic. This kind of problem goes beyond party politics."

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