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Clinton calls for coordinated economic response

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for coordinated action to revive the global economy today and invited Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso to meet US President Barack Obama at the White House next week.

Making Japan her first destination as secretary of state, Clinton also offered Aso's ailing government reassurance on the solidity of the US-Japan alliance and on US concerns about Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago.

It is unclear whether her gestures will help Aso, whose unpopular government is grappling with the worst recession in a generation and whose finance minister said he would resign after having to deny he was drunk at a G7 news conference.

In a sign Washington may be hedging its bets on the Aso government, Clinton planned to meet with the leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, Ichiro Ozawa.

Speaking at a news conference with Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, Clinton said the two discussed "the economic challenges facing our two countries and the world as a whole, which demand a coordinated global response".

"As the first- and second-largest economies in the world, we understand those responsibilities," she added.

The two also signed an agreement to move 8,000 US Marines from Japan's southern island of Okinawa to the US territory of Guam, a transfer long in the works and that a US general this month said might be delayed beyond its 2014 target date.

"This agreement ... reinforces the core of our alliance: this mission to ensure the defence of Japan against attack and to deter any attack by all necessary means," Clinton said in an allusion to the nuclear umbrella that the United States extends over Japan.

On a one-week visit to Asia that will also take her to Jakarta, Seoul and Beijing, Clinton made time to visit Tokyo's Meiji shrine and was scheduled to have tea with the empress of Japan, meet the families of Japanese abducted by North Korea decades ago and to hold a town hall meeting with students.

After taking part in a purification ceremony at the Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji, considered the father of modern Japan, Clinton said the head priest there had spoken to her "about the importance of balance and harmony".

Speaking to US diplomats, Clinton drew an implicit contrast to the administration of former US President George W. Bush, whose legacy includes wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's not only a good concept for religious shrines, it's a good concept for America's role in the world," she said without citing Bush by name.

"We need to be looking to create more balance, more harmony."


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