Saturday 19 August 2017

Minister quits after saying 'it was good' that Japan tsunami hit northern region

Masahiro Imamura bows while speaking to journalists after submitting his resignation from his post as disaster reconstruction minister (Toshiyuki Matsumoto/Kyodo News via AP)
Masahiro Imamura bows while speaking to journalists after submitting his resignation from his post as disaster reconstruction minister (Toshiyuki Matsumoto/Kyodo News via AP)

Japan's disaster reconstruction minister has resigned after saying "it was good" that the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami hit a northern region instead of areas closer to Tokyo.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe accepted Masahiro Imamura's resignation on Wednesday.

He was replaced by Masayoshi Yoshino, the former deputy environment minister from Fukushima, which was also hit by radiation leaks from a tsunami-hit nuclear power plant.

Nobody died from radiation, but overall, the tsunami and the quake killed more than 18,000 people across northern Japan.

Mr Imamura's resignation comes a day after he made the remark in a speech at a ruling party reception, which Mr Abe also attended.

According to Kyodo news, Mr Imamura said: "It was good that (the disaster) hit the Tohoku region, up there. There would have been a massive, enormous damage had it occurred closer to the capital region."

He immediately retracted the comment and apologised, but Mr Abe's face reportedly froze.

Mr Imamura was criticised earlier this month over a suggestion during a news conference that those who left voluntarily following a meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant should fend for themselves.

His blunder is the latest in a string of remarks and scandals that have plagued the government in recent months, prompting opposition politicians to step up their effort to weaken Mr Abe's grip on power.

In March, Mr Abe's reconstruction adviser, who was criticised for having his underling carry him on his back to step over a puddle while visiting a flooded town, resigned after making a joke over rubber boots.

Mr Imamura's predecessor faced allegations he stole female underwear. And earlier this month, a trade vice minister was forced to quit over an adultery scandal.

AP

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