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Japan trade minister resigns over Fukushima comments: media

Japanese economy and trade minister resigns from newly formed government after heavy criticism for jokes over radiation at the tsunami-hit Fukushima plant

AFP , Saturday 10 Sep 2011
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Japan's economy, trade and industry minister resigned on Saturday over his comments about radiation contamination in crisis-hit Fukushima, Japanese media reported.


Yoshio Hachiro, appointed only a week ago in the new government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, provoked anger when he called the area around the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant a "shi no machi" or a "town of death".


Kyodo News reported that Noda had accepted Hachiro's resignation, which came a day before Japan was set to mark six months since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which left 20,000 dead or missing and sparked the nuclear crisis at Fukushima.


Witnesses have also said that after his visit to the nuclear plant, Hachiro made as if he was rubbing his jacket against a journalist, while making a remark to the effect that "I will infect you with radiation."


Hachiro's remark and apparent joking about radiation were widely seen as insensitive and immediately prompted opposition parties to demand Noda dismiss him.


"If you were thinking about the feelings of Fukushima local residents, you wouldn't possibly act like that," said Shigeru Ishiba, a senior member of the leading opposition Liberal Democratic Party.


The "town of death" comment was seen as particularly outrageous because the government cannot provide evacuated residents with a firm timetable for their return.

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