1. Reconstruction minister resigns over gaffe
A Cabinet Minister in charge of rebuilding areas hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami has resigned after making a remark seen as offensive to those affected by the disaster.
Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura submitted his letter of resignation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday morning.
Abe accepted it and appointed Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Masayoshi Yoshino as the new Reconstruction Minister.
Yoshino was elected from Fukushima, one of the prefectures hard-hit by the disaster. He has until now served as the chairman of the Lower House special committee on disaster reconstruction.
Imamura's remark came in a speech he gave on Tuesday at a gathering of lawmakers belonging to a Liberal Democratic Party faction led by LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai. Referring to the scope of social infrastructure losses caused by the 2011 disaster, he said it was fortunate that the disaster struck the northeastern Tohoku region rather than the Tokyo metropolitan area, as the damage would have been much worse.
At the same gathering, Abe apologized for Imamura's remark. He said it was inappropriate and offended the people in the disaster-hit areas.
This was Imamura's 2nd gaffe this month. His resignation is viewed as a de facto dismissal by the Prime Minister.
Opposition parties say Imamura should resign not only as a Cabinet minister but from the Diet as well, and they are expected to question Abe's responsibility for appointing Imamura.