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Japan's minister of 2020 Tokyo Olympics resigns after outcry

By
Clyde Hughes
The Olympic flag is passed to the mayor of Tokyo, Japan, for the 2020 Olympic Summer Games during the closing ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 21, 2016. File Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI
The Olympic flag is passed to the mayor of Tokyo, Japan, for the 2020 Olympic Summer Games during the closing ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 21, 2016. File Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo

April 11 (UPI) -- Yoshitaka Sakurada, Japan's cybersecurity and Olympics minister for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, has resigned from his post over remarks about a natural disaster in the nation eight years ago.

At a recent political rally, Sakurada hailed fellow Liberal Democrat Hinako Takahashi and said he was "more important than reconstruction" in Tohoku, a Japanese district heavily damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The comments drew criticism from victims of the disaster.

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Sakurada apologized in his resignation for the comments, which were the latest in the series of remarks that made headlines in Japan and embarrassed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration.

"I made a remark that hurt the feelings of people in the areas affected by the disaster," Sakurada said. "Simply retracting what I said is not sufficient."

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The prime minister named Shunichi Suzuki to replace him Thursday.

"I hope Mr. Suzuki ... will recover trust [among the public] and lead us toward a successful Olympic and Paralympic Games," Abe said.

Yukio Edano, head of the rival Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, blamed Abe for keeping Sakurada around after previous gaffes.

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"It had been pointed out repeatedly that Sakurada's political nuances and knowledge of issues are problematic," Edano said. "In spite of that, Abe continued to defend him. So Able is responsible. It's a serious situation."

Suzuki's was the second recognition in Abe's administration in two weeks. On April 5, Japanese Vice Land Minister Ichiro Tsukada quit after admitting he upgraded a road project as a favor to Abe and Finance Minister Taro Aso.

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