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Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008

Kaneko vows no controversy


Staff writer

Newly appointed transport minister Kazuyoshi Kaneko stressed Monday he isn't like his predecessor, Nariaki Nakayama, who was forced to resign following a series of gaffes.

News photo
Getting off on the right foot: Kazuyoshi Kaneko, the new land, infrastructure, transport and tourism minister, speaks to reporters Monday. SATOKO KAWASAKI PHOTO

"Nakayama's remarks were inappropriate for a Cabinet minister," the 65-year-old Kaneko said during his first news conference in his new role.

"I really feel sorry for . . . the public that ministers have to be replaced often," he said. "I will not need to be replaced because of anything I say."

Kaneko is known as a financial and economic policy expert. He worked as a banker at the now-defunct Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan before winning a House of Representatives seat in 1986, following in the footsteps of his late father, Ippei Kaneko, a former finance minister.

The Gifu Prefecture native is also well-versed in construction and transport affairs.

Kaneko said he "received compassion from everyone" for being thrust into the limelight with so little warning.

Nakayama stepped down Sunday after making several controversial statements, including that Japan is "ethnically homogenous." His resignation came only four days after he was appointed to the new administration led by Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Kaneko disavowed his predecessor's remarks.

"I understand that the Diet passed a resolution on the Ainu indigenous people," Kaneko said, acknowledging that Japan does have some diversity.

The Diet officially recognized the Ainu as an indigenous people in June.

Another of Nakayama's gaffes disparaged Nikkyoso, the biggest union of teachers and school staff. He called it "a cancer on Japanese education."

"I am not commenting on the Nikkyoso issue," Kaneko said calmly, without even subtly changing his facial expression.

Nakayama also drew fire for criticizing opponents of Narita International Airport.

Kaneko declined to place any blame on the local residents.

"The reason why Narita (expansion) was delayed was definitely because we could not gain sufficient understanding from the residents at the start of the project," he said.

Given Nakayama's resignation, Kaneko said he felt under constant pressure while answering the reporters' questions.



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