Japan's Disaster Minister resigns after quake gaffe

Tokyo, April 26 (IANS) Japan's Disaster Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura resigned on Wednesday after saying it was a "good thing" that the 2011 quake and tsunami struck northeast region than Tokyo.

"I severely troubled and hurt people in northeastern Japan," Imamura said after submitting his resignation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe has accepted the resignation and appointed Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker Masayoshi Yoshino as the new minister for reconstruction of the disaster-hit Tohoku region, The Japan Times reported.

Yoshino is a lower house member from Fukushima prefecture and previously served as senior Vice Environment Minister.

Imamura made the remark at a gathering of ruling party lawmakers here on Tuesday.

"Even in Tohoku, that terrible damage of ¥25 trillion was incurred. If it hits places near the Tokyo area, it would have been an unimaginable disaster. That's what I meant to say," Imamura told the media later.

His remarks immediately drew criticism across the country, with social media users lashing at him.

"You mean you don't care if people in Tohoku are killed? Oh, no. Imamura should resign," said twitter user Mori Totiotoko.

"Withdrawing his remark won't settle this problem. Take responsibility for what you said. Never come to Tohoku again!" wrote another user.

He came under fire earlier in April for comments suggesting that some evacuees were responsible for their own decision and the consequences thereafter to evacuate Fukushima in the wake of the nuclear disaster.

Regarding the government's decision to delegate help for those who chose to evacuate from the quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, Imamura said "it is such people's own responsibility, their own choice not to return".

The leader of main opposition Democratic Party on Wednesday insisted that his resignation was not enough to account for his gaffes, saying that Abe also bore responsibility, Xinhua news agency reported.

"This brings into question Abe's responsibility for having appointed Imamura," Renho said.

Abe conceded that the public's faith in his administration was lacking following a series of inappropriate remarks made by a number of ministers and parliamentary vice ministers that he had appointed.

"The administration must take seriously the suggestions that we are becoming slack. We must bring back the public's trust," he said.