New Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi pledged Thursday to safeguard universal values as well as the peace and stability of Japan and other parts of the world in the face of China's military buildup and assertive territorial claims.

"We are seeing more serious challenges to universal values, which have sustained peace and the stability of the international community, and the international order," Hayashi said at his first news conference since assuming the post on Wednesday following the relaunch of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's Cabinet.

Hayashi, a 60-year-old Lower House lawmaker often seen as holding a "pro-China" stance, also said he has decided to quit as the head of a cross-party parliamentary group promoting Japan-China friendship, after serving for about four years, "to avoid causing unnecessary misunderstanding."