Japan Minister to Resign over March 2011 Disaster Gaffe (News)


Tokyo, April 25 (Jiji Press)—Japanese postdisaster reconstruction minister Imamura Masahiro decided Tuesday to resign to take responsibility for a gaffe he made the same day over the March 2011 massive earthquake and tsunami that mainly hit the Tōhoku northeastern region of the country.

His resignation would effectively be a dismissal by Prime Minister Abe Shinzō, who is trying to minimize the impact of the verbal blunder on his administration soon after Nakagawa Toshinao quit as parliamentary vice minister of economy, trade, and industry and left the ruling Liberal Democratic Party earlier this month over an extramarital affair.

But analysts said the gaffe could deal a heavy blow to the Abe administration, which puts top priority on promoting reconstruction after the disaster, because people in afflicted areas are harshly criticizing the remarks by Imamura, a 70-year-old LDP lawmaker.

Abe is expected to receive a letter of resignation from the reconstruction minister on Wednesday. The prime minister is likely to appoint former State Minister of the Environment Yoshino Masayoshi, 68, also an LDP lawmaker, to replace Imamura in the reconstruction post, informed sources said.

In a speech during a party held at a Tokyo hotel on Tuesday afternoon by the LDP faction led by Nikai Toshihiro, secretary-general of the party, Imamura said: "It was good that the disaster occurred in Tōhoku. The disaster could have caused huge damage if it had happened near the Tokyo metropolitan area."

Disaster Victims Angry at Imamura Comment

People affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan have expressed anger at the improper statement made on Tuesday by reconstruction minister Imamura Masahiro over the disaster.

"The remarks are outrageous," said a 75-year-old man who has been evacuated to a temporary house in the city of Fukushima, the capital of Fukushima Prefecture, from the Nagadoro district in the prefectural village of Iitate.

"The minister is not paying attention to the feelings of affected people," he added. The Nagadoro district has been designated as a no-go zone following the severe accident at Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, which was damaged in the quake and tsunami that mainly hit the Tōhoku region.

"It's only natural for the minister to resign," said a woman, 76, from the town of Namie—also close to Fukushima Daiichi—who has been taking shelter in temporary housing in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Nihonmatsu .

Fukushima, Miyagi, and Iwate Prefectures, all in Tōhoku, were hit hardest by the earthquake and tsunami.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Fukushima LDP Jiji Press 3/11