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Reconstruction minister calls it quits; sends Kan reeling

Date Posted: 2011-07-07

Japan’s beleaguered Prime Minister took one step forward, then got pushed back at least one step this week as his reconstruction minister was forced to quit only days after accepting the post because of remarks he made that upset victims of the March 11th earthquake and tsunami.

Ryu Matsumoto’s statements to the governor of Iwate Prefecture, Takuya Tasso, drew so much fire he had to step down. Matsumoto, who also was the country’s environment minister, was supposed to be leading the rebuilding effort following the devastating disaster, but was heard telling the governor while visiting the tsunami zone that the government wouldn’t help those communities that didn’t come up with ideas of their own to rebuild.

He also lambasted Miyagi Prefecture’s Governor, Yoshihiro Murai, for keeping him waiting, then turning his wrath on the media with orders not to report the quote and threatening trouble for their companies if they did report on his comments. Matsumoto’s quick resignation has drawn some of the heat from the opposition, and supports hope it will allow the plans for a $25 billion extra budget bill to provide aid to the disaster-stricken areas to get passed.

Kan, who only a few days ago withstood a no-confidence vote, is now scrambling to find another candidate who will lead the rebuilding effort, said to be the largest reconstruction aid project since the post-World War II era. Opposition parties are demanding the Prime Minister step down, and similar calls are being heard within his own Democratic Party of Japan. He’s resisted the demands to date, although he’s hinted he will step dow n, possibly at the end of August, if he gets all projects accomplished that he’s working on now.

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