07/05/2011, 00.00
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Japan’s Minister for Reconstruction in shock resignation

Ryu Matsumoto had been in office for just over a week. He did not explain the reasons for decision. On July 3, he came down hard on the governors of the areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March, and his statements were widely criticized.
Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Minister for Reconstruction, Ryu Matsumoto, has announced his resignation after just one week of work. Matsumoto has been widely criticized for his insensitive statements to the governors of the areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March. Matsumoto said the government would not help them financially unless they offered good proposals for reconstruction.

The resignation of Matsumoto further weakens the position of Prime Minister Naoto Kan whose government recently survived a parliamentary no confidence vote brought forward by many MPs critical of his handling of the aftermath of the earthquake. (See 02/06/2011 The Japanese parliament holds no-confidence vote for Prime Minister Naoto Kan). Naoto Kan is trying to persuade Parliament to support an extra allocation of funds for reconstruction, and held that Minister Matsumoto’s comments would impede his efforts.

Matsumoto announced his resignation with tears in his eyes during a press conference in Tokyo this morning, but did not explain the reasons for his action. "There are many things I want to say ... But I will be gone from now. The minister made the statements during a trip considered undiplomatic tohe prefectures of Iwate and Myagi, affected by the tsunami, on July 3. Matsumoto has also publicly rebuked the governor of the prefecture of Myagi, Yoshiro Murai, because he had made him wait. He then ordered the journalists who filmed the exchange not to broadcast it, threatening retaliation if they did.

The damage caused by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami of 11 March has amounted to 16.9 trillion yen, about 144 billion euros, a sum equivalent to the GDP of Ireland. This was announced on June 24 by the Japanese government, which stated that the estimate does not include damage caused by nuclear fusion at the Fukushima power plant but refers only to damage to buildings, businesses and infrastructure in the northeastern region of Japan, devastated by a magnitude 9 earthquake, which triggered a massive tsunami that left 23 thousand people dead or missing.
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