WAKAYAMA – Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka urged her ministry’s bureaucrats over the weekend to stop resisting change and join her efforts to reform the ministry and eliminate improper handling of taxpayer’s money.
Tanaka criticized the bureaucrats for standing in the way of her efforts to clean up the ministry, which has been rocked by scandals including a series of public-fund embezzlement allegations and internal investigation findings that ministry staff have improperly pooled funds.
“They are digging holes and placing land mines in front of me, apparently trying to get me out of the way so they can go back to doing things as they wish,” Tanaka said at a town meeting in Wakayama on Saturday.
“But what I want to ask them to do is be part of my reform efforts so that one day in the future, they can reminisce about having taken part in reforming the ministry under Makiko Tanaka,” she told an audience of some 430 residents of Wakayama Prefecture.
At a news conference after the town meeting, Tanaka said the bureaucrats are making mischief, such as by lying to the media about her words and deeds and moving her personal property around inside the foreign minister’s office without her permission.
“Many stories come out from the Foreign Ministry (through the media). I will not go into the details here, but I understand the bureaucrats want to get rid of me,” she said, suggesting that they are distorting the information they leak to the press.
She said that after she attended a Diet committee session Thursday, she returned to her office and was handed a paper bag with her personal belongings stuffed into it. When she looked at the contents of the bag, she found that her ring was missing, Tanaka said.
At least one media organization played a recording of the foreign minister’s voice, apparently heard through a closed door to her office, accusing her administrative secretary Toyohisa Kozuki of stealing her ring and ordering him to go and buy a replacement.
At the joint news conference in Wakayama among those who took part in the town meeting, Tanaka said Kozuki is at fault for creating a situation in which the media was able to hear the conversations she had in her office with the bureaucrats that day.
The ring incident was reportedly one factor making her about 40 minutes late for a meeting that evening with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi. However, Tanaka said she was held up in discussions with fellow lawmakers.