Fukuda comes out of hiding at last, speaks to reporters

by Masami Ito

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who refused to speak to reporters since suddenly announcing his resignation Sept. 1, finally came out of hiding Monday evening, claiming he has not been avoiding the media.

“It’s not that I’ve been refusing” to speak to the media, Fukuda said. “I was thinking that it wouldn’t be right for the political situation to be influenced (by what I would say).”

When Fukuda announced his resignation, he appeared to end the news conference a little agitated.

“Well, I am capable of observing myself very objectively. I am not like you,” he snapped at a reporter who had questioned whether he had put his all into the job.

For better or worse, Monday’s brief media appearance prevented last week’s outburst from being his last public words as prime minister.

Until Monday evening, Fukuda refused to attend daily briefings with reporters despite requests from media organizations.

Fukuda stressed that he was willing to be flexible depending on the topic.

Although it was not clear why Fukuda agreed to speak to reporters Monday, it may have been linked to the U.S. proposal to lift the global ban on nuclear trade with India, which was approved Saturday by the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Although Fukuda briefly commented on the approval by explaining that it was an exceptional case with certain conditions, he pointed out that Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura had already spoken at a news conference on the topic.

“The chief Cabinet secretary is the government’s spokesperson,” Fukuda said. “Just listen to (Machimura) because it is just as he said.”