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Fukushima native replaces reconstruction minister after quake gaffe

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Fukushima native replaces disaster minister after quake gaffe

Japan’s disaster reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura resigned Wednesday, a day after saying it was “a good thing” the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan rather than the Tokyo area.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe picked Masayoshi Yoshino, a House of Representatives member from Fukushima Prefecture and the chairman of a special lower house committee on disaster reconstruction, to replace Imamura.

“I severely troubled and hurt people in (northeastern Japan),” Imamura told reporters at Abe’s office after submitting his resignation, which the prime minister accepted immediately.

“I apologize from my heart for my lack of virtue,” he added, while rejecting calls to also resign as a lawmaker.

Abe also apologized, both to the residents of areas recovering from disasters and the Japanese public as a whole, after accepting Imamura’s resignation.

Imamura made the “good thing” comment at a function in Tokyo for a faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which Abe was also attending, on Tuesday evening. He immediately retracted the remark and apologized, but the damage was done.

The lawmaker made the remark after citing a figure of 25 trillion yen ($225 billion) for the damage to social capital and other infrastructure from the March 2011 disaster.

“It’s a good thing it was over there in the northeast. If it had been close to the greater Tokyo area, there would have been vast, enormous damage,” he said.

The disaster left 15,893 people dead and 2,553 still listed as missing, the National Police Agency said in its latest tally.

Imamura, 70, prompted calls for his resignation earlier this month when he suggested people displaced by the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the quake should fend for themselves.

A native of Saga Prefecture in Japan’s southwest, Imamura was given his post in a Cabinet reshuffle in August last year.

His 68-year-old replacement Yoshino, a fellow LDP lawmaker and former senior vice environment minister, hails from Iwaki, a city in Fukushima on the Pacific coast that bore the brunt of the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.

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“My own home was damaged by the tsunami, and my campaign office was completely destroyed, so I think I understand better than anyone else the feelings of those affected by the disaster,” Yoshino said at his first press conference as a Cabinet minister later Wednesday.

The choice of a Fukushima local apparently reflects the administration’s desire to avoid further criticism that the reconstruction minister is unable to relate to people affected by the disaster.

Imamura’s resignation prompted the main opposition Democratic Party and three smaller opposition parties to also seek his resignation as a lawmaker.

The opposition demanded holding Diet committee sessions to pursue Abe’s responsibility in the matter.

The LDP and Democratic Party agreed Wednesday to hold such a session in the lower house on May 8. They are expected to arrange a House of Councillors committee session on May 9 or near that date.

The opposition parties had essentially threatened not to turn up for Diet deliberations until such a date was fixed.

Imamura’s resignation follows a series of blunders by Cabinet ministers and has dealt another blow to the government at a time when it is already facing issues that risk splitting public opinion.

The Diet is deliberating a bill to criminalize conspiracy to commit serious crimes, ostensibly to combat terrorism, which opponents say could result in the suppression of civil liberties.

Public sensitivity also surrounds a special bill in the works to enable the abdication of Emperor Akihito.

The string of embarrassments prompted Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito, to warn last week the administration is “strikingly lacking in a sense of alertness.”

Yamaguchi spoke after LDP lawmaker Toshinao Nakagawa resigned as parliamentary vice minister of economy, trade and industry amid media reports of extramarital affairs.

The week before that, regional revitalization minister Kozo Yamamoto, another LDP lawmaker, called curators of cultural properties a “cancer” that needs to be “eradicated,” before being forced to apologize and retract the remark.

“(The administration) must take seriously the suggestions that we are becoming slack,” Abe acknowledged Wednesday in his apology over Imamura’s resignation, vowing to “win back the public’s trust.”

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/04/43790ecd62a8-update5-fukushima-native-replaces-disaster-minister-after-quake-gaffe.html

 

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Disaster minister quits after quake gaffe, Fukushima rep takes over

Japan’s disaster reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura resigned Wednesday, a day after saying it was “a good thing” the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan rather than the Tokyo area.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe picked Masayoshi Yoshino, a House of Representatives member from Fukushima Prefecture and a former senior vice environment minister, to replace Imamura.

Imamura tendered his resignation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday morning and the prime minister accepted it immediately.

“I severely troubled and hurt people in (northeastern Japan),” Imamura told reporters at the prime minister’s office after submitting his resignation.

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“I apologize from my heart for my lack of virtue,” he added, while rejecting calls to also resign as a lawmaker.

Abe also apologized, both to the residents of areas recovering from disasters and to the Japanese public at large, after accepting Imamura’s resignation.

Imamura made the “good thing” comment at a function in Tokyo for a faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which Abe was also attending, on Tuesday evening. He immediately retracted the remark and apologized, but the damage was done.

Imamura had prompted calls for his resignation earlier this month when he suggested people displaced by the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the quake should fend for themselves.

The leader of the main opposition Democratic Party on Wednesday said Imamura’s resignation is not enough on its own.

“This brings into question Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s responsibility for having appointed (Imamura),” Renho said at a party meeting.

Abe acknowledged that this responsibility lies with him in his apology. “(The administration) must take seriously the suggestions that we are becoming slack,” Abe said, vowing to “bring back the public’s trust.”

Imamura, a native of Saga Prefecture in Japan’s southwest, was given his post in a Cabinet reshuffle in August last year.

His replacement Yoshino hails from Iwaki, a city in Fukushima on the Pacific coast that bore the brunt of damage in the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.

“I have been making reconstruction my life, so I’m happy to be given a challenging post,” Yoshino told reporters at the LDP’s head office in Tokyo on Wednesday morning.

Imamura’s resignation has prompted the suspension of House of Representatives proceedings scheduled for Wednesday morning and most of the House of Councillors proceedings scheduled for Wednesday.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/04/e8335852ad1d-update2-disaster-minister-quits-after-quake-gaffe-fukushima-rep-takes-over.html

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Japan reconstruction minister quits after inappropriate comment on disaster zone

FILE PHOTO: Japan's State Minister in charge of Reconstruction Masahiro Imamura speaks at a news conference in Tokyo

 

The Japanese cabinet minister overseeing reconstruction of areas devastated by the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster resigned on Wednesday after saying it was better the disaster struck the northeastern region instead of Tokyo.

Masahiro Imamura was forced to quit after remarks he made on Tuesday at a party for ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmakers and is the latest in a spate of ruling party lawmakers in trouble for their comments or behavior.

Speaking of the costs incurred in the 9.0 earthquake that set off a massive tsunami and left nearly 20,000 dead or missing, Imamura said: “It was better that this happened in the northeast.”

The comments came just weeks after Imamura set off a furor at a news conference by disparaging people who left Fukushima out of fear after the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, then shouting at a reporter and storming out of the room.

Imamura’s comments prompted an immediate rebuke from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who apologized on his behalf. His swift resignation was seen aimed at minimizing the damage to Abe’s government, which has been accused of complacency in the absence of a viable opposition.

“It was an extremely inappropriate comment and hurtful to people in the disaster zone, an act causing the people a reconstruction minister works for to lose trust in him, ” Abe told reporters after Imamura resigned.

The subject still touches a raw nerve because regional businesses have struggled to recover and reconstruction work has been slow. Many evacuee families have also given up hope of returning to their home towns.

Shunsuke Mutai, a deputy reconstruction minister, drew fire last year after forcing a subordinate to carry him on his back so his feet could stay dry as he visited a flooded area. He quit in March on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the March 11 disaster after making a joke about the incident.

A week ago the vice minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Toshinao Nakagawa, was forced to resign from his position after news broke of an extramarital affair. He later resigned from the LDP.

Abe’s support currently hovers around 50 percent despite a series of recent scandals, including one involving a nationalist school. He has a shot at becoming Japan’s longest-serving leader after party rule chances allow him to serve a third consecutive three-year term after his current tenure ends in 2018.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-politics-resignation-idUSKBN17S07R

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment