Japan's prime minister has begun posting English-language messages on the video-sharing Internet site YouTube in an apparent bid to raise his country's international profile.
In his online New Year's message for 2008, Yasuo Fukuda speaks in English about the challenges facing the world in the coming year and promises to play a leading role in finding solutions.
"Of these challenges, those that concern the environment seriously affect all who live on this earth. Japan's mission is to play a major role in this area," Fukuda says in the video set against a backdrop of leather-bound books at his official residence.
"We will contribute to creating a world where people can live peacefully," he says in the five-minute clip - rarely smiling, in line with his dour image.
As of Wednesday morning, the English video clip had been viewed 385 times, while a Japanese-language version had been viewed 1,465 times. Neither had yet prompted any viewers to post comments on the site.
The clip is part of the "YouTube LDP Channel" launched last month by Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party. It features official party videos designed to reach a younger, wider and more global audience.
English is widely used throughout Asia as an international language of diplomacy, commerce and general communication.
The channel hosts about two dozen video clips, including messages from LDP executives, a video summarizing the party's history and a lawmaker playing a traditional Japanese banjo.
Fukuda will also make frequent appearances on the channel, according to LDP multimedia chief Taro Kono. "The LDP is the very first Japanese party to launch a channel on YouTube," Kono said in another clip. "I hope you tune in when you have nothing else to do."
Fukuda already sends out a weekly e-mail magazine in English and Japanese outlining his beliefs and policies.
The initiative comes amid recent efforts by Japan - which is trying to win a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council - to boost its international clout.
Tokyo sent troops to Iraq on a non-combat humanitarian mission in 2003, and joined rescue efforts after a tsunami devastated large parts of southern Asia in 2004. It withdrew from Iraq last year, but maintains an air force presence in Kuwait.