TOKYO -- Japan officially marked for the first time the anniversary of the day it regained sovereignty following its World War II defeat, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe steps up his nationalist campaign.

After taking over as prime minister in December, Abe focused mainly on improving Japan's slumping economy, but he recently has shifted his focus to pursuing his conservative agenda.

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Sunday's marking of the 61st anniversary of the regaining of sovereignty is seen as a step to drum up support for revising Japan's U.S.-inspired pacifist constitution. Abe's conservative party has for years denounced the current constitution as one imposed by the United States, which occupied Japan from the end of World War II until 1952.

Last month, the Cabinet approved a plan by the ruling party to designate April 28 as Japan's "sovereignty recovery" day, and Sunday's ceremony was the first government-sponsored event to mark the day. Similar events were previously held privately among ultraconservative lawmakers, mainly from Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, and their supporters. -- AP