Japan's FM surprise visit to Afghan

TOKYO: Japan's Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada made a surprise visit to Afghanistan Sunday, becoming the first member of Japan's new government to travel there, his ministry announced.

He arrived in Kabul on a tour that will also take him to neighbouring Pakistan later in the day, the foreign ministry said in a statement. He will stay in Pakistan until Monday.

Okada was scheduled to meet with President Hamid Karzai and other Afghan leaders, it said.

"The visit is aimed at prompting Afghan officials to establish a stable government after (August's) presidential election," the statement added.

Okada was expected to discuss Japan's contribution to the war-ravaged country and other issues, Japanese media said.

Yukio Hatoyama from the Democratic Party of Japan took over as prime minister on September 16 following a landslide victory in national elections.

Hatoyama has said he will end a naval support mission for US-led operations in the war-torn country in January.

But Okada has said Japan could offer more development aid to Afghanistan in place of the refueling mission.

The Indian Ocean mission -- which began in December 2001 and was periodically renewed by Japan's ousted conservative government -- provides fuel and other logistical support to the US-led coalition.