Abe: Japan, China toward strategic relationship

Updated: 2007-01-02 08:34

Abe also hailed the planned upgrade of the country's Defense Agency to a ministry under a bill approved by Parliament last month. The upgrade would boost the agency's status within the government and allow its troops greater leeway to handle possible threats abroad.

"We will establish a Defense Ministry in January. I expect further efforts ... to fulfill its noble mission to protect livelihoods, property and national territory," Abe said.

Elsewhere in the New Year's statement, Abe promised to work with other regional powers to reach a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff with North Korea.

"Japan will coordinate with the countries concerned ... to work toward a peaceful, diplomatic solution within the six-country framework," Abe said, referring to the stalled multinational talks that aim to dismantle the North's nuclear program.

The statement was short on economic policy, which is expected to be a major concern leading up to elections for Parliament's upper house later this year.

Though Japan's economy has logged its longest expansion since World War II amid record corporate profits, sluggish wages and consumer spending have some analysts worried about the robustness of Japan's economic recovery.

Abe did not touch on recent resignations by two top lieutenants over separate scandals, which have threatened to erode his popularity at home.

Abe is scheduled to hold his first press conference of the year on January 4.


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