Japan PM apologises for finance minister debacle

TOKYO, Feb 19, 2009 (AFP) - Japan's embattled Prime Minister Taro Aso apologised Thursday for the finance minister who resigned after appearing drunk at a press conference, a debacle which triggered a political firestorm.

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso answers a question at the Lower House's budget committee session at the National Diet in Tokyo on Feb. 19 (Photo: AFP)

"I truly regret that, while parliament is deliberating budget bills, the finance minister in charge of them had to be replaced," Aso told the lower house budget committee, where he faced a grilling by opposition lawmakers.

"The responsibility for appointing him as a cabinet minister resides with me, of course," he said.

Shoichi Nakagawa blamed cold medicine for his incoherent replies and drowsy appearance at a press conference following a meeting of the Group of Seven in Rome last weekend.

"I understand that the former minister stepped down not because of a lack of capability but because of his health problem," Aso said in defending Nakagawa, a close ally of the conservative premier.

The political blunder piled further pressure on Aso, already unpopular for a series of policy flip-flops and gaffes, whose cabinet approval rating dipped below 10 percent in one poll this week.

The main opposition group, the Democratic Party of Japan, has threatend a symbolic censure motion against Aso, who facces elections by September.

A junior LDP lawmaker, Masazumi Gotoda, on Wednesday openly called on the premier to step down.

"I want Prime Minister Aso to make a decision on his course of action by himself and, if possible, hand over the post to younger generations," he said.

Source: AFP

Other news