Japan's Abe leaves for Canada, NY

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe left Monday for North America to discuss energy strategies with his Canadian counterpart and unveil fresh aid to Syrian refugees at the UN General Assembly, officials and news reports said.

Abe will arrive in Ottawa Monday afternoon, the first visit to the country by a Japanese prime minister in seven years, where he will meet his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper, government officials said.

During the planned meeting, the two leaders are expected to agree to cooperate in speeding up plans to export Canadian shale gas to resource-poor Japan, said Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

He will then move to New York to speak at the UN gathering, where he will pledge $60 million in humanitarian assistance to help refugees in Syria and neighbouring countries, NHK added.

Abe is separately to pledge $1 million to help victims of sexual violence, as anger continues in Asia over so-called wartime "comfort women," news reports said.

The money is part of efforts to improve a national image tarnished by a continuing controversy over Japan's wartime use of "comfort women," a euphemism for women from Korea and other parts of Asia drafted into sexual slavery, the reports said.

In New York, he will also hold talks with United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon and French President Francois Hollande separately to discuss Syrian and other global issues, NHK added.