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New reconstruction minister blasts predecessor over 'intolerable' gaffe

Newly appointed Reconstruction Minister Masayoshi Yoshino answers a question from a reporter at a news conference in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on April 26, 2017. (Mainichi)

Newly appointed Reconstruction Minister Masayoshi Yoshino criticized his predecessor Masahiro Imamura, who resigned on April 26 to take responsibility for his gaffe over the Great East Japan Earthquake, saying Imamura's remark was "intolerable."

"I'm a disaster victim. I understand victims' feelings more than anyone else," Yoshino said at the outset of about a 20-minute news conference on April 26 shortly after his appointment. He added that his home and office in Fukushima Prefecture were hit by tsunami triggered by the March 2011 earthquake.

"I can truly stand by disaster victims," Yoshino said passionately.

Imamura stated on April 25 it was "a good thing" that the disaster hit the Tohoku region instead of the densely populated Tokyo metropolitan area, forcing him to decide later in the day to step down. Imamura was officially replaced by Yoshino on April 26.

When asked to comment on insensitive words and deeds by Cabinet members and other officials involved in disaster recovery, Yoshino said, "I think successive (reconstruction) ministers have empathized with people in disaster-hit areas in responding to recovery from the disaster."

In reply to a question about government responses to those who have voluntarily evacuated areas hit by the Fukushima nuclear disaster out of concerns about radiation, the new reconstruction minister said, "We'd like to extend further assistance if aid provided so far is insufficient."

Imamura had also come under fire over an earlier gaffe, in which he said such voluntary evacuees were "self-accountable."

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