METI chief quits after eight days

Kyodo

Industry minister Yoshio Hachiro resigned from his post Saturday — only eight days into his tenure — after making controversial remarks about the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, sources said.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has accepted a letter of resignation Hachiro submitted to him, the sources said. His resignation is a blow to Noda, who took office and launched his Cabinet on Sept. 2.

Hachiro was scheduled to hold a press conference later Saturday.

Hachiro came under pressure to quit after calling areas near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant a “ghost town” on Friday and joking with reporters about radiation leaking from the plant.

Hachiro had apologized for the remarks, pledging to “work hard” as economy, trade and industry minister.

Shigeru Ishiba, policy chief of the Liberal Democratic Party, the main opposition force, assailed Hachiro over his comments, saying that if he didn’t offer to resign, Noda should fire him.

But criticism of Hachiro’s comments was not limited to residents in the crisis-affected areas and to opposition party lawmakers. He was also rebuked by some of his colleagues in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.

“It will be important for him to clearly explain today what his intentions really were” when he made the remarks, DPJ policy committee chief Seiji Maehara told reporters earlier Saturday.