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Japan reconstruction minister resigned

[ 2011-07-06 12:13]     字号 [] [] []  
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A week into his new job, Japan's disaster reconstruction minister resigned on Tuesday for remarks widely criticized as offensive during a visit to the tsunami-devastated northeastern coast.

"I felt that I was the person closest to the disaster victims," teary-eyed Ryu Matsumoto said in his farewell speech. "But I sincerely apologize that my words hurt their feelings because they were insufficient or rough."

In meetings with local governors over the weekend, Matsumoto's words were regarded as arrogant and uncaring, angering local residents and political opponents.

In a meeting with the governor of Iwate, one of the hardest-hit prefectures, Matsumoto bluntly warned that the government "will help areas that offer ideas, but will not help those without ideas. I want you to work with that kind of resolve".

To Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai, Matsumoto, 60, expressed irritation that he was made to wait for the tardy governor. Matsumoto refused to shake Murai's hand when he entered the room and scolded the visibly surprised governor.

"You came in late," Matsumoto said tersely. "When a guest comes, you have to be here first before you call your guest into the room," he told the 50-year-old governor, who once served in Japan's military.

"The Self-Defense Force does that because they understand the young must honor their elders. Do you understand?"

He then warned journalists in the room not to report his words. They were widely reported in the media, and a video of the exchange was posted on the Internet.

It was another bad day for Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who has been widely attacked over the slow pace of reconstruction from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the construction of temporary homes for victims and bringing the nuclear crisis under control.

"Japanese politics is going through a meltdown," said Tetsuro Kato, a political scientist at Tokyo's Waseda University.

"Kan is responsible for appointing a person most ill-suited for the position, and he should have left by now. This latest incident is a big political mistake that happened while the government is already in a terminal condition."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that Kan accepted Matsumoto's resignation and hoped to appoint a replacement as soon as possible.

Also on Tuesday, Japan's cabinet approved a two trillion yen ($24 billion) second special budget to finance relief and rebuilding after the earthquake and tsunami that left more than 22,600 people dead or missing.

The budget set aside 800 billion yen in reserve for reconstruction, and 275 billion yen to tackle the Fukushima nuclear crisis, including compensation for victims and health checks for local residents.

Kan's cabinet plans to submit the budget to parliament on July 15 and aims to pass it by the end of the month.

The crippled Fukushima Daiichi atomic plant has been spewing radiation since the massive quake and tsunami knocked out reactor cooling systems, forcing around 85,000 people to leave a 20-kilometer zone around the plant.

In May, Japan passed a 4 trillion yen extra budget which was the first since the disaster hit. The government plans a third extra budget later this year, set to be the biggest.


1) Why did the minister resign?

2) How did the minister deal with journalists after the remarks?

3) What else happened in Japan’s cabinet on Tuesday with reconstruction efforts?


1) For treating a Prefecture Governer roughly

2) Ask them not to report the words

3) $24 special budget approved

(中国日报网英语点津 Julie 编辑)

Japan reconstruction minister resigned

Japan reconstruction minister resigned

Todd Balazovic is a reporter for the Metro Section of China Daily. Born in Mineapolis Minnesota in the US, he graduated from Central Michigan University and has worked for the China Daily for one year.