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“The economy has been in dire straits these past three years, and it must be the top priority,” Mr. Abe said in a televised interview. “We must strengthen our alliance with the U.S. and also improve relations with China, with a strong determination that is no change in the fact the Senkaku islands are our territory.”

AP writers Elaine Kurtenbach, Mari Yamaguchi and Eric Talmadge contributed to this report.