• Kyodo

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The new disaster reconstruction minister on Thursday visited areas damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, vowing to restore confidence in the government among those dismayed by his predecessor’s gaffes.

“I came here today in the hope of regaining trust,” Masayoshi Yoshino, who replaced Masahiro Imamura on Wednesday, told Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori. The prefecture is struggling to rebuild not only from the quake and tsunami but also from the nuclear disaster they triggered.

In remarks made the same morning to the 2011 disaster reconstruction committees of both houses of the Diet, Yoshino vowed to “put myself alongside those affected by the disasters, perform my functions (as minister) and further accelerate recovery.”

Yoshino, a six-term Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker in the House of Representatives, hails from Iwaki, which is part of his constituency on the Fukushima coast.

“Since immediately after the disaster, I have sincerely listened to the voices of those affected and shared their pain and suffering, as someone who was also affected,” Yoshino said.

“I will work not just to bring (the areas) back to the state they were in before, but to create a new northeast,” he said, noting that many people in the recovering areas still face difficult living conditions, although the number of displaced people has fallen to nearly a quarter of the 470,000 peak.

Yoshino’s predecessor said at a party Tuesday evening that it was “a good thing” the 2011 disaster struck northeastern Japan rather than the Tokyo area, due to the greater costs that would have been involved.

Imamura, a native of Saga Prefecture, took back the remark and apologized but ended up resigning the following morning. The seven-term LDP Lower House lawmaker had assumed his first Cabinet post in August last year.

Before being appointed minister on Wednesday, Yoshino was chairman of the Lower House special committee on disaster reconstruction.

Taking his place as chairman is fellow LDP lawmaker Shunichi Suzuki, elected from a constituency in Iwate.

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