The government on Friday recognized newly independent Montenegro as a sovereign state, Foreign Minister Taro Aso said, following in the footsteps of 15 other countries, including the United States, Russia and China.

The Cabinet decision puts the number of sovereign countries recognized by Japan at 191.

Japan will send Akiko Yamanaka, a parliamentary secretary at the Foreign Ministry, to Montenegro on Wednesday to deliver a letter from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to Milo Djukanovic, the prime minister of the Republic of Montenegro, Aso said at a news conference.

Montenegro declared its independence on June 3 after a slim majority of the electorate chose self-rule in a May referendum rather than a continued union with Serbia.

The Serbian government on Thursday recognized independent Montenegro and said it is ready to establish diplomatic ties.

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