Koizumi Regrets Skipping Coronavirus Meeting


Tokyo, Feb. 19 (Jiji Press)--Japanese Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi in a flip-flop on Wednesday showed regret at having skipped a government meeting on the new coronavirus outbreak in favor of attending a New Year party held by a group of his supporters in his hometown.

"I sincerely accept the opinion that it was problematic for me to put priority on the local event, and I regret my action," he told a meeting of the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet, the country's parliament.

Koizumi, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, made the remark in response to questions from opposition lawmakers. But the minister rejected their demand that he apologize.

On Sunday, the government held a meeting of its headquarters for dealing with the outbreak in Japan of the virus originating in China. Although all cabinet ministers are members of the task force, Koizumi was absent from the meeting while attending the party held the same day in his hometown, the city of Yokosuka in the eastern prefecture of Kanagawa. The city is also part of his Lower House constituency.

At a meeting of the same Lower House committee on Tuesday, Koizumi defended his participation in the New Year party, saying that Parliamentary Vice Environment Minister Tetsuya Yagi attended the government meeting on his behalf and that this was "in accordance with the government's crisis management rules."

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