Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said "the competition is closer than expected" as world leaders are closely watching the vote count in the neck-and-neck US presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Abe is following the results in his office, his aide Tateo Kawamura told Kyodo news agency.

While Japan has refrained from taking sides in the election, analysts from both the US and Japan are reported to have hinted at a possible change in US policy towards Japan and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region if the Republican candidate wins.

But regardless of who becomes the next president, Tokyo will remain committed to its diplomatic and security ties with the US, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga reaffirmed.

Caroline Kennedy, the US Ambassador to Japan, hopes the 45<sup>th presidential election creates history. She compared this election to the 1960 election which saw her father John F Kennedy win the presidency as the first Catholic and the 2008 one which Barack Obama won.

The ambassador added that if Clinton wins, it would be historic as she would become the first female president of the country. "This year is another chance to break a barrier with a woman on the top of a major party ticket for the first time," the Associated Press quoted her as saying.

Meanwhile, Australia's Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne feels a victory for Clinton would be the best outcome for Australia. He said Clinton was better on free trade and US engagement in the Asia-Pacific region than Trump.

"I think Hillary will win and win easily and I think that would be the best outcome for Australia because she does support free trade, she does support the United States being deeply engaged in our Asian region which is critical to us," Pyne told Ten Network television late on Tuesday (8 November).

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop reiterated that her country is ready to work with whoever the Americans choose "in their wisdom".

She said while the US presidential elections have always been a "momentous occasion", this year's election has particularly been "bruising, divisive and hard-fought". She added that the new administration will have to face more challenges, including in Asia-Pacific, but promised her government's cooperation.

"The United States is also the guarantor and defender of the rules-based international order that has underpinned so much of our economic and security issues. And interests," Bishop said.

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