Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to "further strengthen" Japan's military alliance with the United States on Friday, in his key annual policy speech for 2017 kicking off a six-month ordinary Diet session.

In recent policy speeches Abe has covered economic issues first and foreign policy later. But this year he started with diplomatic policies, apparently trying ease concerns over ties with the U.S. under incoming President Donald Trump, who has criticized Japan on issues from trade to security.

"In the past, now, and from now on, it is the Japan-U.S. alliance that is the cornerstone of foreign and security policies of our country," Abe told lawmakers packed in the House of Representatives plenary session hall.