Noda accepts blame for Hachiro

Prime minister takes heat from opposition lawmakers, vows to try and regain public trust


Staff Writer

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Thursday acknowledged his responsibility for appointing Yoshio Hachiro, who stepped down within days of becoming trade minister to atone for a verbal gaffe, and vowed to strive to regain public trust.

“I am truly disappointed that a minister resigned after making statements that lacked consideration for the feelings of the disaster victims,” Noda said during a plenary session of the Upper House.

“I, as the prime minister, of course bear responsibility for his appointment and I will vow once again that the Cabinet will unite to regain the trust we have lost and strive to resolve the nuclear power plant accident and support disaster victims.”

Noda also faced criticism from the opposition over foreign policy.

Referring to recent “provocations” by China and Russia, Hirofumi Nakasone of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party faulted the Democratic Party of Japan-led government for having “weak” diplomacy.

Last month, two Chinese ships entered the waters around the disputed Senkaku Islands, while two Russian bombers last week flew near disputed islands off Hokkaido.

“As a result of the weak diplomacy carried out by (then Prime Minister Naoto) Kan’s government . . . we are being openly provoked” by China and Russia, Nakasone said.

Past DPJ prime ministers “did not say what they should have said, did not protect what they should have protected nor do what they should have done,” Nakasone said.

Noda responded that he intends to cooperate with other countries to tackle issues of mutual concern.

“Securing a stable international environment is essential to our nation’s peace and prosperity,” Noda said. “We would like to cooperate with other leading countries to resolve common global tasks.”

In contrast to his gaffe-prone Cabinet ministers, the conservative-leaning Noda chose his words carefully and avoided making controversial comments about revising the war-renouncing Constitution or changing the government’s interpretation to allow Japan the right to collective self-defense — policies he has vocally supported in the past.

“It is true that I have my personal opinions about revising the Constitution as an individual politician . . . but as the prime minister, I have made up my mind to do my best under the current Constitution,” Noda said.

“We have piles of urgent matters to deal with including reconstruction from the major disasters and bringing the nuclear plant crisis to an end and we do not consider the issue of revising the Constitution a priority.”

Later Thursday, New Komeito Secretary General Yoshihisa Inoue called attention to the series of political funds scandals involving key DPJ lawmakers, including Noda himself, over donations made by foreigners — a violation of the Political Funds Control Law. Policy chief Seiji Maehara and Noda’s predecessor, Kan, both received money from South Korean residents who had used their Japanese names when making donations.

“The foundation of running a government rests, unquestionably, on the people’s trust,” Inoue said in the Lower House session.

“Any doubts regarding politics and money must be cleared up swiftly and forcefully.”

Noda responded that he was looking into the funds. “I would like to take sincere measures regarding the problem over donations made by foreigners,” Noda said. “With the help of experts, I am looking into it and will reveal the results once they are ready.”