TOKYO The Japanese cabinet minister overseeing reconstruction of areas devastated by the 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster intends to resign after saying it was better that the disaster struck the northeast instead of Tokyo, national broadcaster NHK said.
Masahiro Imamura made the comments when talking about the economic costs of the disaster at a party for ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers earlier on Tuesday. The remarks prompted an apology by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was also at the event.
No one from Imamura’s office was immediately available to comment.
The quick resignation is likely intended to minimize fallout. Abe’s administration has suffered from gaffes by minor officials recently, causing some critics to say the government, which faces little viable opposition, is becoming overly complacent.
It has been six years since an earthquake of magnitude 9 and accompanying tsunami struck Japan’s northeast, triggering the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.
The subject still touches a raw nerve because regional businesses have struggled to recover and reconstruction work has been slow. Many evacuee families have also given up hope of returning to their home towns.
(Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)