TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Japan’s disaster reconstruction minister resigned Wednesday after remarking it was fortunate the catastrophic 2011 earthquake-tsunami had hit a largely rural area reasonably than Tokyo.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was pressured to apologize to residents of the devastated northeastern area of Tohoku, which continues to be recovering greater than six years on, after Masahiro Imamura sparked outrage along with his feedback.
“It was good that it (the disaster) occurred over there in Tohoku,” he mentioned late Tuesday.
“If it had been close to the capital zone, there would have been enormous damage,” he added, referring to the huge Tokyo conurbation.
An enormous undersea quake on March 11, 2011 despatched a tsunami barrelling into Japan’s northeastern coast, leaving greater than 18,500 folks lifeless or missing and sending three reactors into meltdown on the Fukushima nuclear plant.
After submitting his resignation, Imamura mentioned he deeply regretted the feedback.
“I caused great trouble to the people of Tohoku and hurt their feelings. I’m very sorry,” he instructed reporters, bowing.
Abe, who was attending the identical political gathering on Tuesday, apologized to friends quickly after Imamura’s remarks, saying they had been “extremely inappropriate.”
Imamura’s phrases “hurt the feelings of people in the disaster-hit areas,” a grim-faced Abe mentioned Wednesday in additional feedback on the incident.
“As prime minister, I’d like to apologize deeply to the people in the disaster-hit areas,” he mentioned.
Abe mentioned he’ll exchange Imamura with Fukushima native and veteran politician Masayoshi Yoshino.
It was not the primary time Imamura has courted controversy.
He got here below hearth earlier this month after he mentioned individuals who had not but returned to areas of Fukushima recognised by the federal government as secure to dwell in are “responsible for themselves.”
He then tried to oust the journalist whose query led to the remarks at a information convention, shouting: “Get out!”
Abe’s approval score, though nonetheless above 50 %, has just lately fallen, as scandals erode public confidence in a authorities now in its fifth 12 months.
A vice economic system minister resigned final week after reported on an extramarital affair.
That got here simply weeks after the resignation of Shunsuke Mutai, a vice minister for reconstruction, who had joked final month the “(rubber) boot industry made money” following a lethal hurricane which claimed 19 lives within the northern city of Iwaizumi final 12 months.
Abe took energy in December 2012 vowing to finish years of on-and-off deflation and revitalise the world’s third-largest economic system.
He was additionally elected on the again of widespread frustration with the earlier administration’s dealing with of the 2011 nuclear disaster and perceived mismanagement of ties with key ally the United States.
But he has just lately been pressured to distance himself and his spouse from a nationalist faculty operator whose buy of state land to construct a major faculty at an enormous low cost has drawn allegations of shady dealings.