TOKYO - Japan’s presumptive premier Shinzo Abe got his US leaders mixed up Tuesday, when he told business chiefs he had been speaking to “President Bush” after a phone call from Barack Obama. The gaffe came in one of Abe’s first speaking engagements since his landslide victory in weekend polls that saw his Liberal Democratic Party returned to power. Abe, who was prime minister in 2006-7 during the final years of George W. Bush’s presidency, quickly realised his error when assembled journalists and business leader began chuckling. The 58-year-old corrected his verbal misstep and told officials from the Keidanren, Japan’s business lobby, that he and Obama had agreed on the importance of the Japan-US security alliance.

Abe is expected to be formally elected as prime minister by fellow lawmakers on December 26. Business chiefs had been kept waiting for Abe, who turned up around an hour late. Aides told reporters the White House call had been expected earlier.