Japan PM faces heat in SKorea island row
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Last Updated: Thursday, March 10, 2011, 23:53
Tokyo: Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan suffered a fresh political blow on Thursday after one of his allies was found to have supported South Korea in a bitter territorial row between the two countries.

Ryuichi Doi, a lawmaker and adviser to Kan's study group in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, admitted he inadvertently signed a document at a political gathering in Seoul which backed the South Korean claim to disputed islands.

The document in part called for former coloniser Japan to renounce its sovereignty claims to a group of South Korea-controlled islets, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea.

"I did not closely examine" the text, the 72-year-old politician told a news conference a day after his apparently unpatriotic act drew fire in local media.

"I wish to apologise to the nation and the people concerned," Doi said, offering to give up his posts as chairman of the lower house panel on political ethics and as the head of a party executive council.

He said the islands are an "integral part of Japanese territory," echoing the position of successive Japanese governments, which have also sparred with Russia and China in separate territorial spats.

Doi, a former socialist, attended the gathering of South Korean and Japanese Christian parliamentarians in Seoul on February 27, which marked the anniversary of a 1919 popular uprising against Japanese colonisers.

Doi's action came to light yesterday, the day Kan picked Takeaki Matsumoto as his new foreign minister to replace Seiji Maehara, who resigned after just six months on the job over a donations scandal.

Premier Kan, whose approval rating has plunged below 20 per cent in the nine months since he took office, called Doi's act "extremely deplorable".

"Takeshima is an integral part of Japan's territory and this is an unchangeable fact," Kan told the budget committee in the opposition-controlled upper house.

Opposition leaders, determined to derail Kan's budget plan for the fiscal year from April 1, said that DPJ leader Kan was responsible for Doi's act.

"Mr. Kan himself should act responsibly as the leader of the party," said Sadakazu Tanigaki, head of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the Buddhist-backed opposition party New Komeito, said that it had become apparent that the Kan government was "crumbling."

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, March 10, 2011, 23:53

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