Japan's new PM promises to 'rebuild the nation'
Japan's new prime minister, Naoto Kan, has promised to "rebuild the nation" after becoming the country's sixth premier in four years yesterday.
Mr Kan, who succeeds Yukio Hatoyama who stepped down on Wednesday, inherits a daunting list of problems.
The country has the largest public debt in the industrialised world, sluggish growth and an ageing population.
The 63-year-old's first task will be to form a cabinet and convince voters of his party's competence in the wake of his predecessor's financial scandals. He plans to announce cabinet members next week. Upper house elections are due next month.
"Our first priority is to regain the trust of the people," he told Democratic Party of Japan members.
He described Japan's relationship with America as vital, but stressed the importance of Asian neighbours.
He also said he would honour an agreement with Washington to move US Marine Air Station Futenma to a less-crowded part of Okinawa, a pledge broken by Mr Hatoyama. Island residents want the base moved off Okinawa entirely.
"It is an extremely tough issue that I must tackle firmly," he said.
Mr Kan would be considered a fiscal conservative with an image as a challenger to the status quo. It is thought the appointment should improve the ruling party's chances in a national election. It has also boosted hopes of bolder steps to address tattered public finances.
The Democratic Party of Japan picked Mr Kan by an overwhelming majority to succeed the unpopular Mr Hatoyama, who quit this week ahead of an upper house poll expected in July that the ruling bloc needs to win to avoid policy deadlock. Mr Kan was later voted in by parliament.
"What I want to tell voters in the upper house election is that our reforms are becoming more concrete," Mr Kan said in his first news conference as prime minister-elect. "The hopes voters had for the Democratic Party are not just ending up as a mere dream. They will be realised."
Mr Kan's rise to the top job and his expected new cabinet line-up could spell bolder steps ahead to rein in a public debt that is already twice the size of the economy.
US President Barack Obama's administration, which had sometimes rocky relations with Mr Hatoyama, welcomed Mr Kan's election, saying it was "committed to maintaining excellent co-operation" with the new Japanese government. (©Daily Telegraph, London)