Asia-Pacific

Japan Prime Minister Naoto Kan resists resignation call

Prime Minister Naoto Kan (R) speaks with Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara in parliament on 24 January 2011.
Image caption Seiji Maehara has been seen as a potential successor to the prime minister

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan has brushed off calls for his resignation, after the foreign minister stepped down over a funding scandal at the weekend.

Mr Kan told parliament that he intended to fulfil his duties until elections, which must be held by late 2013.

The opposition, which controls the upper house, wants an early poll and is threatening to block budget bills.

The resignation of Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara has added to the impression of a government in disarray.

Some political commentators in Japan are predicting that Naoto Kan's government will collapse sooner rather than later - but it seems he is determined to resist.

"Carrying out the administration's duties for a four-year term and then letting the people decide at the ballot box is best for the people themselves," Mr Kan told a parliamentary session.

"I intend to firmly fulfil my duty until that time comes."

Political deadlock

Even before the funding scandal, Mr Kan was battling to stave off opposition calls for an early general election, says the BBC's Roland Buerk in Tokyo.

He wants to implement tax reform to cover the costs of Japan's rapidly ageing society and rein in its massive public debt.

But deadlock in parliament means Mr Kan is struggling to pass bills to implement the trillion-dollar budget for the new financial year which begins next month.

Mr Kan is Japan's fifth Prime Minister since 2006. Mr Maehara had been seen as a potential successor to Mr Kan.

But he stepped down on Sunday after just six months in the job.

He had acknowledged accepting political donations from a foreign national - illegal in Japan if done intentionally.

Mr Maehara admitted taking a 50,000 yen ($610) political donation from a South Korean national resident in Japan.

The sum is small but Japanese law bars politicians from accepting money from outsiders to prevent foreign powers having influence on domestic politics.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano will serve as temporary foreign minister until a successor is appointed.

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