Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka tendered his resignation Wednesday to Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto to take the blame for a scandal in which two ministry bank inspectors were arrested for bribery.In accepting Mitsuzuka’s resignation, Hashimoto will also hold the post of finance minister until a successor is named early next week, government officials said. A Mitsuzuka-led faction within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is pushing for one of its members, former Defense Agency chief Sohei Miyashita, to take the post, party sources said.But some LDP lawmakers are resisting the move because Miyashita was once a Finance Ministry bureaucrat, the sources said. Asked by reporters who he has in mind to replace Mitsuzuka, Hashimoto, apparently irritated, said, “(The successor is) me. I will not comment any further.”Later in the day, Hashimoto met with top LDP executives, who agreed that a new finance minister should be selected by Friday and that the matter should be left with the prime minister. Hashimoto reportedly said he does not want to be bound by factional interests.Possible candidates mentioned by various LDP sources included Health and Welfare Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Yoshiro Mori, chairman of the LDP’s Executive Council, Seiroku Kajiyama, former Chief Cabinet Secretary, as well as Kaoru Yosano, former deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary.Hashimoto also summoned Vice Finance Minister Takeshi Komura and Toshiro Muto, director of the ministry’s Secretariat, to his Official Residence and ordered them to prevent further bribery scandals from occurring and to ensure the law is upheld within the ministry, the officials said.Hashimoto did not touch on the question of whether the responsibility for the scandal lies with the top ministry bureaucrats, but there were suggestions that those officials, not just Mitsuzuka, should also step down to take the blame. LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato said the officials should take some of the responsibility. “I do not think the resignation of (Mitsuzuka) alone will be the final solution to the problem,” Kato told a news conference.While recognizing that matters regarding ministry personnel are subject to the decisions of the new finance minister, Kato said the public is watching to see how ministry officials will respond to regain public trust. He also said the LDP will start working to create a law that mandates discipline among bureaucrats. The party will launch a special panel for such discussions today.The panel, to be created at Hashimoto’s instructions, is to be headed by party policy chief Taku Yamasaki. At a meeting of key members of the party and its two small non-Cabinet allies — the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake — it was agreed that it is essential to strengthen the current ethical codes for bureaucrats.
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