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Incoming Japanese Prime Minister Pledges to Honor Okinawa Deal


New Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan says he will honor a previous agreement with the United States to relocate a military air base on the southern island of Okinawa.

Mr. Kan, inaugurated Tuesday, told reporters that Japan's relationship with the United States is at the core of its diplomacy. He said he hopes to meet with President Barack Obama later this month at a summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations (Britain, Canada , France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States) in Canada.

A controversy concerning the U.S. Marine air station on Okinawa contributed to the downfall of Mr. Kan's predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama. His approval ratings plunged after he reversed himself on a campaign promise to back out of the 2006 agreement to relocate the base.

Mr. Kan, a fiscal conservative, also promised to reduce Japan's massive public debt, which is twice the size of the country's gross domestic product.

The new prime minister is retaining 11 of Mr. Hatoyama's 17 ministers, including Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and defense chief Toshimi Kitazawa. He has named Yoshihiko Hoda to succeed him as finance minister.

One new member is a 42-year-old former model and television announcer who goes by one name -- Rehno. She gained notoriety last year for interrogating public officials during an inquiry into wasteful spending. She was appointed minister in charge of administrative reform.

Yoshito Sengoku, who Mr. Kan selected as chief Cabinet minister, says the new prime minister's goal is to bring in "fresh ... clean" and "professional" ministers who can effectively govern.

Mr. Hatoyama stepped down last week, becoming the fourth Japanese prime minister to resign since 2007.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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