Asia-Pacific

Japan trade minister Hachiro quits over nuclear gaffe

Yoshio Hachiro on 2 September 2011
Yoshio Hachiro had only been in post since last week

Japan's new trade minister has quit after calling the area around the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant a "town of death", media reports say.

Yoshio Hachiro is also reported to have rubbed his jacket against a reporter, saying "I will give you radiation" after visiting the plant on Thursday.

Mr Hachiro's comments were widely seen as insensitive and prompted calls by opposition parties for him to resign.

PM Yoshihiko Noda, who appointed him, later said they were inappropriate.

"Sad to say, the centres of cities, towns and villages around it are a town of death without a soul in sight," Mr Hachiro said at a news conference on Thursday.

On Friday, Mr Noda said the remarks were inappropriate and that he wanted Mr Hachiro, who was appointed on 2 September, to apologise, which Mr Hachiro did.

Tadamori Oshima, vice-president of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, condemned Mr Hachiro, saying: "It is a remark that deprives disaster-affected people of hope and is worthy of disqualifying him as a minister."

Embarrassment

In a news conference late on Saturday, Mr Hachiro said Mr Noda had accepted his resignation, with Mr Hachiro apologising again several times.

He said with his remarks he had been trying to convey the seriousness of the situation.

His departure is viewed as a major embarrassment for Mr Noda, who only took office last week and was due to tackle the recovery effort from the disaster, correspondents say.

Mr Noda is Japan's sixth prime minister in five years after his predecessor, Naoto Kan, resigned.

It is almost exactly six months since the devastating tsunami and earthquake hit Tokyo and north-eastern Japan, killing some 20,000 people and triggering the nuclear crisis at Fukushima.

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