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Cablegate: Transportation Minister Resigns After Five Days

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ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 300901Z SEP 08
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RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 2796
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RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI PRIORITY 7159
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEATRS/TREASURY DEPT WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/USFJ PRIORITY

UNCLAS TOKYO 002731

SIPDIS

EEB/TRA/AN FOR DAS JOHN BYERLY
DOT FOR KEITH GLATZ
USTR FOR MICHAEL BEEMAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR PGOV ELTN ETRD JA
SUBJECT: TRANSPORTATION MINISTER RESIGNS AFTER FIVE DAYS

REF: TOKYO 2639

1. (U) Summary: Only five days after his appointment, MLIT
Minister Nariaki Nakayama formally resigned September 28
after a series of controversial remarks. Prime Minister Aso
appointed Kazuyoshi Kaneko, a Lower House member with
experience in construction and budget issues, to replace
Nakayama. Japanese press and other commentators note the
remarks and subsequent resignation come at an awkward time
for the new Aso administration. End Summary.

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2. (U) Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and
Tourism (MLIT) Minister Nariaki Nakayama formally resigned
September 28 after making a series of highly publicized
statements highlighting his strongly nationalist and
right-wing views. In a press conference after his
resignation, Nakayama said, "I was determined to fulfill my
mission in a key cabinet post, but I have decided to step
down from that post, since my remarks may undermine Diet
deliberations amid the growing economic crisis." Nakayama
was unapologetic about his criticisms of Japan's teachers'
union, however, following his resignation.

3. (U) Among the remarks which drew the ire of the opposition
and some in the press, Nakayama called Japan's largest
teachers' union (affiliated with the Communist Party) "a
cancer on Japanese education" September 25 and said the union
should disband. He also said opponents of Narita Airport
expansion are "squeaky wheels, or I believe they are (the
product) of bad postwar education." He continued that it is
"regrettable" that the airport has not been able to expand
because "people lack the spirit of sacrificing for the public
good." He also described Japan as being "ethnically
homogenous," which invited the criticism of representatives
of Japan's indigenous Ainu population, who were just
recognized by the Diet earlier this year as a non-Japanese
people native to Japan.

4. (U) Prime Minister Taro Aso has appointed Kazuyoshi Kaneko
to succeed Nakayama at MLIT. Kaneko, 65, a member of the
Koga Faction, represents Gifu Prefecture's Fourth District.
He was first elected to the Diet in 1986. He was the
Minister for Administrative Reform under Koizumi (2003-2004)
and has served as Chair of the House of Representatives
Budget Committee. Having held positions as parliamentary
Vice Minister of Construction and head of the LDP's
construction committee, he is considered knowledgeable about
construction and transportation issues. Son of Ippei Kaneko,
a former Finance Minister, Kaneko was a banker prior to his
election to the Lower House. His hobbies include tennis.

5. (U) Septel contains additional reporting on the political
aspect of Nakayama's resignation.
SCHIEFFER

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