Kan elected as Japan's new PM, pledges 'close US ties'

Finance Minister Naoto Kan was elected as Japan's next premier on Friday after his predecessor's failure over US base pledge.

Kan elected as Japan's new PM, pledges 'close US ties'

Finance Minister Naoto Kan was elected as Japan's next premier on Friday after his predecessor's failure over US base pledge.

The Democratic Party of Japan picked Kan by an overwhelming majority to succeed Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who broke his promise to move off unwanted US base on the island.

Japan's new leader Friday pledged economic recovery and "close ties" with Washington after his predecessor's failure over US base pledge.

A parliamentary vote confirmed Kan as the successor to Yukio Hatoyama, who tearfully resigned as prime minister Wednesday.

He was later voted in by parliament's powerful lower house.

"With all of you, I would first would like to compile firm policies or plans to rebuild Japan ... ahead of the upper house election," Kan said in his acceptance speech before leaving the stage and pumping his fist in the air.

Kan, a former leftist activist, is Japan's fifth premier in four years, and the first in over a decade who does not hail from a political dynasty.

The 63-year-old previously served as finance minister and deputy premier in Hatoyama's centre-left government, which came to power last year in a landslide election, ending half a century of almost non-stop conservative rule.

"My first job is to rebuild the country, and to create a party in which all members can stand up together and say with confidence, 'we can do it!'" a smiling Kan said after his party earlier installed him as its new leader.

Kan vowed to revitalise Asia's biggest economy, which has been in the doldrums since an investment bubble collapsed in the early 1990s.

"I believe we can achieve a strong economy, strong finances and strong social welfare all at the same time," he said, pledging to reduce Japan's huge public debt which is nearing 200 percent of gross domestic product.

"US cornerstone of foreign policy"

"Japan has a lot of problems, including the North Korean issue," said Kan, stressing that US-Japanese ties remain the "cornerstone" of foreign policy despite popular anger at US.

Kan faces an uphill battle to win back voters after the government's approval ratings under Hatoyama slumped below 20 percent this week.

Hatoyama's support plummeted after he backtracked on an election promise to move the unpopular US base off the island of Okinawa, enraging locals as well as the pacifist Social Democrats, who quit the ruling coalition.

He also said he would keep Japan's policy to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels.

However, Kan, the son of a factory manager and a graduate of applied sciences from a top university in Tokyo, campaigned in the 1970s for pacifist and environmental causes and entered parliament with a leftist party in 1980.

He achieved popularity in the mid-1990s when as health minister he admitted government culpability in a scandal over HIV-tainted blood products.

In January Kan, although not a trained economist, took over as finance minister. In that post, he advocated a weaker yen and badgered the central bank to do more to help Japan recover from its worst post-war recession.

Kan, who is likely to be sworn in by the emperor early next week, will form his new cabinet on Tuesday, a DPJ official said.

The current session of parliament will likely be extended to enact key bills and the upper house election held on July 25, Japanese media said.


Agencies

Last Mod: 04 Haziran 2010, 15:18
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