Kan under fire in wake of Matsumoto’s resignation

by and

Staff Writers

Prime Minister Naoto Kan accepted responsibility Wednesday for last week appointing Ryu Matsumoto as reconstruction minister, only to see him resign Tuesday after disparaging the disaster zone he was tasked to mend, but vowed to stay on as leader until his conditions for leaving are met.

Kan’s determination to stay in power is expected to further fuel the opposition camp’s outrage as well as boost calls by members in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan who want him to resign immediately, this time because of Matsumoto’s short-lived stint.

Matsumoto quit after making remarks that angered survivors of the March 11 quake-tsunami calamity. “It is I who appointed (Matsumoto), so as a result, I think I bear responsibility,” Kan said during a Lower House Budget Committee session after Nobuteru Ishihara, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, slammed Matsumoto’s controversial remarks and subsequent resignation.

“The reconstruction minister made remarks that upset the quake survivors. I would like to apologize for that,” Kan said.

The opposition camp wants Kan out of office promptly, saying he is unable to manage his Cabinet and take quick action to rectify the Tohoku disaster.

Kan, however, remains adamant his exit will only come after three key measures are passed, including the second extra budget for fiscal 2011, by the Diet. “Others may think I just want to stay longer as prime minister,” Kan said. “But I just want to do what I should do until the next stage.”

LDP policy chief Shigeru Ishiba also assailed Kan during the committee meeting and expressed frustration over Kan’s vague answers on the timing of his departure. Ishiba also pointed out that Kan never clearly said he would resign.

“I don’t think I have ever used the words ‘resign’ or ‘stepping down,’ ” Kan said in what could be regarded as a declaration of his will to stay at the helm.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano stressed during a Wednesday morning news conference that the prime minister obviously intends to resign.

Kan “honestly answered that he did not use those words,” Edano said. “But putting together the prime minister’s statements, I think it is clear what he means.”

Meanwhile, Ishiba also threatened another opposition-instigated no-confidence vote against the Kan Cabinet. One was voted down early last month.