New PM pledges to rebuild economy

Naoto Kan, a straight-talking campaigner who rose to become one of Japan's most popular politicians, has been elected the country's new prime minister.

Japan's parliament voted Mr Kan, 63, into office yesterday hours after he took over as president of the ruling Democratic Party (DPJ) from Yukio Hayotama, who abruptly quit this week.

"My responsibility... is to rebuild this country as its prime minister," Mr Kan said.

As Japan's fifth prime minister since 2006, the former finance minister faces a long list of pressing problems, including a growing fiscal crisis, a two-decade economic slump and strained ties with Washington over a controversial US military base.

Many voters are hoping that Mr Kan, who rose from humble beginnings, will finally end a tradition of conveyor-belt leaders.