Tuesday, February 17, 2009

That Wine In Rome Must be Really Good.

Does n't Japan have enough problems? Or maybe that is exactly why Shoichi Nakagawa was plastered in a crucial event in a crucial time for Japan and the rest of the world. Still you represent your country and that is how you present yourself? I hope he at least enjoyed the pizza. Does n't seem like a good time is awaiting him back home.


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Japan Finance Minister Denies Being Drunk at G7
Topics:Economy (Global) | G7 | Politics & Government | Japan
By: Reuters | 16 Feb 2009 | 05:14 AM ET
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Japan's finance minister denied on Monday that he had been drunk at a G7 news conference but the opposition demanded he be fired, piling pressure on unpopular Prime Minister Taro Aso ahead of an election this year.

Asked ahead of a meeting with Aso if he was considering resigning, Shoichi Nakagawa told reporters: "If I was told to resign, I would."

Nakagawa, 55, a close ally of Aso, said he had only sipped a little wine at a luncheon before the news conference, which followed a Group of Seven finance leaders meeting in Rome.

But he said he had taken a large amount of cold medicine, which may have affected his performance badly.

The fuss over Nakagawa's behavior at the news conference comes as Aso's public support is plummeting ahead of an election that must be held no later than October and as the economy sinks deeper into recession.

If Nakagawa is fired or forced to quit, analysts said, it would be a heavy blow to Aso, struggling to keep his own grip on power after a series of gaffes and policy flip-flops.

"It is a fact that I didn't conduct myself clearly, and I feel I must put it straight," Nakagawa told reporters in Tokyo about the news conference.

At the news conference with Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa after the G7 meeting, Nakagawa's speech sounded slurred.

At one point, Nakagawa, his head down and eyes closed, mistook a question directed at the BOJ governor as one for him.

Nakagawa attributed his behavior to having taken too much medicine, including cold medicine, but said his performance had not harmed Japan's standing or its relations with G7 nations.

The main opposition Democratic Party disagreed and said he should either be fired or step down.

"This is a matter where his responsibility as a minister of state and as a financial minister has been called into question," Democratic Party leader Ichiro Ozawa said. "His responsibility for having shown disgrace to the world is heavy. I think this is an embarrassment."

Kyodo news agency quoted an unidentified executive from Aso's Liberal Democratic Party as saying Nakagawa should resign soon.

Former prime minister Yoshiro Mori, asked about the news conference, told Japanese TV he had discussed such issues with Nakagawa in the past.

"Since he really loves to drink, I advised him once to be careful about drinking," Mori said.

Potentially Lethal?

Democratic Party No. 2, Yukio Hatoyama, told reporters the party may submit a censure motion against Nakagawa to parliament's upper house if the matter was not quickly resolved.

A censure motion in the upper house, controlled by the opposition, is non-binding but one minister was pressured to resign in the past by such a resolution.

Nakagawa, a right-leaning lawmaker who has also held farm and trade portfolios, earlier said it was up to the prime minister to decide his fate.

Political analysts said if Nakagawa stepped down or was axed it would be a serious blow to Aso, who appointed his close ally to hold both the finance minister post and the banking supervision portfolio when he took office last September.

"Losing someone in charge of the financial system and public finances at this juncture ... is potentially lethal for his (Aso's) own tenure," said Koichi Nakano, a Sophia University political science professor.

Even if Nakagawa stays, "it will add to the impression that Aso is well past his expiration date," Nakano said.

Grilled in parliament over his behavior, Nakagawa said he had sipped wine at a luncheon toast on the day of the news conference, but had not consumed an entire glass.

"I did not drink a glassful," he said.

Japanese TV broadcasters and national newspapers called attention to Nakagawa's behavior at the news conference at the G7 gathering to discuss the world financial crisis.

Video of the media conference was widely circulated on the Internet.

Japan has been hit hard by the global downturn. Its economy is suffering an unprecedented slump in exports, posting in the final quarter of last year its biggest GDP contraction since the first oil crisis in 1974.
Copyright 2009 Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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