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Monday, Sept. 29, 2008

CABINET INTERVIEW

Kawamura promises to keep Aso from tripping over his own feet


Staff writer

As right-hand man to the prime minister, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura says his job is to make sure that Taro Aso doesn't stumble.

News photo
Top spokesman: Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura is interviewed Sunday. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

Aso is known for his outspoken nature, often treading on thin ice by making contentious statements. But at the same time, critics point out that his "honesty" is part of what makes him popular with the public.

"I would like to make the most of Aso's distinguishing characteristics but at the same time make sure he doesn't step over the line and stumble," Kawamura said in an interview with The Japan Times and other media organizations Sunday. "I would like to wrap the prime minister in a veil of cotton."

All attention is on whether Aso's Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition or the Democratic Party of Japan led by Ichiro Ozawa will win the next Lower House election.

Both Aso and Ozawa are strong leaders, Kawamura said, but Aso has something that Ozawa lacks — cheerfulness.

"Let's move forward energetically and in good cheer. That is the message that no other prime minister has sent out," Kawamura said. "And I think that's why all of the opinion polls show that Aso is far and away the most popular leader."

Kawamura, who will concurrently serve as the minister in charge of the abduction issue, stressed the importance of resolving that dispute with North Korea.

When Yasuo Fukuda reshuffled his Cabinet in August, he took a step forward and gave that job to Kyoko Nakayama instead of having the chief Cabinet secretary serve both positions as done before.

But under Aso, the ministerial post was shifted back to the government's top spokesman.

"The awareness that the abduction issue is the most important task of Japan has not changed a bit under the Aso Cabinet," Kawamura said. "The first thing I thought of when I became the minister in charge of the abduction issue was that I must send out a strong message to the victims that we have no intention of" giving up on them.

Kawamura said the ruling bloc and the government will give their all to pass an extra budget during the upcoming extraordinary Diet session amid the critical financial situation.

"We believe that this supplementary budget is necessary for the public," Kawamura said. "We will do our best to seek the understanding of the opposition parties and strive for its passage."



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