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
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."