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Edano to carry portfolio after Japan's Foreign Minister Maehara steps down

Date Posted: 2011-03-13

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano will provisionally double as Japan’s foreign minister following the resignation of Seiji Maehara over illegal political donations.

The Japanese government decision was announced by Yuko Mori, a House of Councillors member of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, at a meeting of executives of the Upper House Budget Committee. Maehara resigned as foreign minister on Sunday for receiving political donations from a foreign resident in Japan in violation of the political funds control law. Appearing before a parliamentary committee, Maehara admitted receiving at least a ¥50,000 donation from a foreign resident of Japan in violation of the law that bans donations from foreign individuals and companies. At his news conference, Maehara said the donation totaled ¥250,000.

The resignation of a key cabinet minister over a political funding scandal deals a severe blow to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who has already been struggling with falling public support. The exit by Maehara, 48, also means the loss of a key politician considered one of potential successors to Kan. Newspaper polls have placed Maehara high on the list of most desirable persons to become a prime minister in Japan.

Maehara's resignation also has a minus effect on the country's foreign policy, observers said. He has been credited by some with helping to rebuild relations with the United States, which soured due to a dispute over a U.S. military base in Okinawa Prefecture, southern Japan, when Kan's predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, was in office. Maehara was scheduled to attend a meeting of the Group of Eight foreign ministers set to start in Paris on March 14 and hold talks with his Chinese and South Korean counterparts in Kyoto, western Japan, starting March 19.

He met with Prime Minister Naoto Kan Sunday evening before announcing his resignation at a news conference. Kan initially tried to persuade Maehara to stay in office, but finally accepted his resignation, according to Maehara. He became transport minister in September 2009 when the Democratic Party of Japan took power following a historic election victory. A year later, he became foreign minister. Maehara became the third minister to quit since Kan took office in June last year.

The South Korean permanent resident of Japan, whose donation to Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara caused him to resign, has said she was not aware that Japanese law bans foreign individuals from making political donations. The woman said in a recent that had she been aware of the law, she would not have donated money to Maehara, adding that she did so because she ‘‘has cherished’’ him since his childhood when they lived close to each other. ‘‘I didn’t know (the donation was illegal), and if I knew it, I wouldn’t have made a donation,’’ the woman who lives in Kyoto said. She did not tell Maehara that she had made the donation, so he ‘‘can’t have known of it,’’ she added.

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