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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Japan Swears In Nationalist PM

TOKYO -- Nationalist Shinzo Abe, a proponent of a robust alliance with the United States and a more assertive military, easily won election in Japan's parliament to become the country's youngest postwar prime minister Tuesday.

Abe garnered 339 votes out of 475 counted in the powerful lower house, and 136 ballots out of 240 in the upper house. He later appeared before Emperor Akihito in a brief ceremony at the Imperial Palace.

Abe, 52, is Japan's first prime minister born after World War II.

He stocked his new government with a wide range of Cabinet picks, including Taro Aso, who will keep his post as foreign minister, and veteran Fumio Kyuma, appointed to a second stint as defense chief.

"It's the beginning of the new era under Abe," ruling party secretary-general Hidenao Nakagawa told Japanese national broadcaster NHK. "I hope those who voted for Abe will join hands to achieve our political goals."

The heir apparent to outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for about a year, Abe came to office as a champion of the security pact with the United States, revision of the pacifist constitution, a more outspoken foreign policy, and more patriotic education.

One of his top challenges will be repairing Japan's deteriorating ties with China and South Korea. Beijing and Seoul on Tuesday reacted cautiously to Abe's election, calling for the new Japanese government to take steps to improve relations.

Abe will also have to find ways to maintain the economy's recovery from a decade-long slowdown, and grapple with troubles related to the rapidly aging population.

His government immediately declared that the prime minister -- not the powerful bureaucracy -- would direct policy.

"The Prime Minister's Office should be strengthened as the control center for the whole state," said incoming Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki. "The office will put forward policies based on strategic thinking."

The new prime minister faces the further challenge of filling the shoes of Koizumi, who pushed through major economic reforms, backed a groundbreaking dispatch of soldiers to Iraq, and brought Japanese politics into the modern media age in his five years at the helm.