(Adds page numbers in paragraph 2, Dimon's political comments in paragraph 6, succession in paragraph 9.)

NEW YORK, April 8 (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon hailed U.S. leadership and economic power in an annual letter to shareholders on Monday that invoked "liberty and justice for all."

Dimon, who runs the largest U.S. bank, celebrated American exceptionalism in his yearly message, which is widely read by investors. In it, he underscored the importance of the nation's military might - and its support for Ukraine - alongside its economic strength. The CEO devoted 15 pages to public policy in his 59-page letter, compared with five last year.

"Even America, the most prosperous nation on the planet with its vast resources, needs to focus its resources on the complex and difficult tasks ahead," he wrote.

Dimon, who took the reins in 2006, is among a group of financial CEOs whose names have been floated for senior economic roles in government. The Wall Street Journal last week reported that allies of former U.S. President Donald Trump were considering senior Wall Street executives, including Dimon, for the role of Treasury secretary.

JPMorgan declined to comment on the speculation, and has previously said that Dimon has no plans to run for office.

"I have a Democratic heart and a Republican brain," Dimon

told CNBC

in an interview in January. The CEO, a democrat who has previously criticized his own party, said they should be more respectful of the millions of citizens who voted for Donald Trump. He also acknowledged the former president was "kind of right" on some policies relating to immigration, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and China.

Dimon was not endorsing any presidential candidate on CNBC, said Joe Evangelisti, a company spokesperson.

Dimon cited a widening wage gap that has led to "the fraying of the American dream," and caused some Americans to feel left behind while others become more wealthy. He recommended improving education and increasing tax credits for low-income workers.

The billionaire CEO was awarded a 4% raise to $36 million for 2023 after JPMorgan earned a record annual profit.

Last May, the 68-year-old CEO signaled he

could depart

in 3-1/2 years.

The bank's board said an

orderly CEO transition

is one of its top priorities in the medium term, naming potential candidates in its proxy statement on Monday. They include Jennifer Piepszak and Troy Rohrbaugh, recently appointed co-CEOs of its expanded commercial and investment bank, and Marianne Lake, CEO of its consumer and community bank.

On foreign policy, Dimon advocated for the U.S. to sign more trade agreements and said it should take a tough stance with China, while still staying engaged.

The CEO's letter also includes a reprinted column written by former U.S. Senator George McGovern in 1992, a leading Democratic liberal whose anti-Vietnam War stance cost him the 1972 presidential race against Republican Richard Nixon.

The article, entitled "A Politician's Dream Is a Businessman's Nightmare," discusses the challenges of running a small business and the role of government in encouraging economic growth.

Elsewhere, Dimon reiterated his opposition to stricter bank capital rules proposed by U.S. regulators. The draft regulations could make markets less transparent and hurt consumers by making loans more expensive, Dimon wrote. He also called for simpler rules and better collaboration between banks and regulators.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said last month that regulators will make significant changes to the contentious plan.

Dimon also advocated for more merger approvals at a time when lenders are facing increased competition from fintech firms and private credit companies.

"Banks should be allowed to pursue their individual strategies, including mergers and acquisitions, as they see fit," Dimon said.

Banking consolidation has come into focus after three regional lenders failed last year, spreading turmoil through the industry. JPMorgan bought one of the collapsed banks, First Republic, last year.

Separately, Dimon maintained his view that inflation could be more persistent than markets expect, prompting interest rates to stay higher.

"In spite of the unsettling landscape, including last year’s regional bank turmoil, the U.S. economy continues to be resilient, with consumers still spending, and the markets currently expect a soft landing," he wrote.

Still, he cited U.S. government spending, quantitative tightening and wars in Ukraine and the Middle East as potentially disruptive factors.

"These significant and somewhat unprecedented forces cause us to remain cautious," Dimon wrote.

He also addressed how the bank votes in corporate elections, a hot topic after Walt Disney shareholders voted last week to keep hedge fund manager Nelson Peltz out of the entertainment giant's boardroom.

The bank is giving its money managers more say in corporate votes by adding them to its North American proxy committee to "increase the diversity of viewpoints," he said. It will also rely less on proxy advisory firms such as Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis, which have "undue influence" over investor votes, Dimon said. (Reporting by Nupur Anand in New York; Editing by Lananh Nguyen, Miral Fahmy and Marguerita Choy)