Sun, Sep 04, 2011 - Page 5 News List

LDP calls for Japan defense minister to go

LEAVE IT TO THE PROS:Freshly appointed Ichikawa attempted to defend his description of himself as an amateur by saying that most people are amateurs

AFP, TOKYO

Newly appointed Japanese Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa enters the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo on Friday. Japan’s main opposition party called for the new defense minister to resign yesterday for referring to himself as an amateur shortly before he formally took office as part of the new government line-up.

Photo: AFP

Japan’s main opposition party yesterday called for the new defense minister to resign for referring to himself as an amateur shortly before he formally took office as part of the new government line-up.

Yasuo Ichikawa told Japanese media just before he was appointed on Friday: “I am an amateur concerning security,” in comments that the opposition Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP) said proved he was not qualified for the job.

“For that comment alone he deserves to be discharged from his ministerial post,” said LDP policy chief Shigeru Ishiba, himself a former defense minister.

He said that the wisdom and judgement of Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, in appointing Ichikawa was also “put into question.”

Noda, Japan’s sixth leader in five years, appointed his cabinet on Friday, featuring untested talent in key posts including the positions of finance minister and foreign minister.

Ichikawa, 69, who served in the farm ministry for 25 years before entering politics, said his comment had been misinterpreted.

“I meant to say that most of the people are amateurs and it is important to pursue security policies from the people’s viewpoint,” he said late on Friday.

However, the controversy had refused to go away yesterday with LDP policy expert Ichita Yamamoto joining the calls for the defense minister to resign as soon as possible.

“We feel very anxious leaving Japan’s national defense to a person with such an attitude,” Yamamoto said.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, often labeled center-left, has been at odds with the US over a huge US military presence in Okinawa since it ended the LDP’s long domination of Japanese politics in 2009.

Noda’s two predecessors have failed to resolve the issue with the key ally because of Okinawa islanders’ resistance to the planned transfer of a US marine corps air station from a growing urban area to a scenic stretch of shore.

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