Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs resigns

By Daniele Pestilli on March 6, 2011

Japan’s Foreign Minister, Seiji Maehara (前原 誠司) resigned this Sunday upon allegations of accepting a ¥50,000 ($607) political donation from a South Korean national resident in Japan, Reuters has reported.

Mr. Maehara, potential successor to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, argued it had been accepted unknowingly from a childhood friend he knew long before entering politics, Asahi News quotes him as saying. If done intentionally, accepting these donations violates Japan’s law. This measure is intended to prevent foreign powers from influencing Japanese domestic affairs.

I apologize to the Japanese people for stepping down after only six months and provoking distrust over a problem with my political funding, although I have sought to pursue a clean style of politics - Mr. Seiji Maehara

Just two days earlier, Mr. Maehara said his ministry was reviewing the ODA (Official Development Assistance) to cut Japan’s aid to China, Mainichi News reported. The ODA’s goal is to assist developing nations with socioeconomic infrastructure. However, China has recently overtaken Japan as the world’s second largest economy, thus making the assistance moot. Mr. Maehara– also known as a “China hawk” – has recently criticized China’s increasing investment in military build-up. Prime Minister Naoto Kan of the Democratic Party (DPJ) was quick to back Maehara in this decision.

This resignation is a blow to Mr. Kan’s already vacillating government. According to Reuters News Agency, Kan is struggling to prevent the DPJ from collapsing, thus calling the nation to anticipated elections. He is also facing antagonism from the opposition, which is reluctant to implement his fiscal reform that aims at increasing sales taxes to 5% in order to cover Japan’s enormous public debt.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, of Japan’s center-right opposition party, the New Komeito (NKP) said:

The Kan government has lost the confidence of the people. There can only be a resignation of the entire cabinet or a dissolution of the lower house.

This is not the first call for a general election that Mr. Kan’s government has faced. Opposition to the party is not surprising: the DPJ became the ruling party in 2009, defeating the rightist Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) which had been in power for nearly 54 consecutive years since 1955.

Apart from a soaring public debt, Japan is currently struggling to hoist itself from an economic slump and is battling the high costs of its super-aging-society.