Japan's new PM plans diplomacy with Asia

Updated: 2007-10-01 19:26

TOKYO - Japan's new Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said Monday he will focus on friendly ties with Asian neighbors while keeping the country active in international peacekeeping efforts.

Japan's new Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda delivers his first policy speech at the parliament in Tokyo October 1, 2007.[Agencies]

Fukuda, 71, officially took office Wednesday, replacing Shinzo Abe, who suddenly announced his resignation in mid-September due to a stress-related intestinal ailment.

"I will seek out a responsible international role for our country that can win global faith, and make diplomatic effort to contribute to world peace," Fukuda said in a policy speech at the Diet, or Japan's parliament. He called his policy "peacemaking diplomacy" - a change from Abe's "assertive diplomacy" that included a greater international peacekeeping role and tough stance toward North Korea.

Fukuda renewed his commitment to continue Japan's naval mission supporting US-led military operations in Afghanistan despite strong resistance from the opposition bloc.

Fukuda, who also promised to keep friendly ties not only with its top ally, the US, but also with Asia, said resolving North Korea's nuclear disputes is "indispensable for peace and stability in Asia."

Japan's navy has been providing fuel for coalition forces in Afghanistan since 2001 under an anti-terrorism law that has already been extended three times.

The law expires on November 1, but Fukuda is facing difficulty renewing it for the fourth time because of strong resistance from Japan's main opposition party, which now controls the upper house of the Diet.

"The urgent task we face is a continuation of the Maritime Self-Defense Force's naval mission at the Indian Ocean," he said.

Fukuda reiterated that Japan's naval mission is "in line with international efforts to prevent the proliferation of terrorism, as well as a responsibility Japan should fulfill as part of international society."

Fukuda vowed to do his utmost to gain support from the public and opposition lawmakers so that Japan can continue the mission.

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