Japan PM says won't resign over foreign donations

AP News
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Posted: Mar 11, 2011 1:02 AM
Japan PM says won't resign over foreign donations

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Friday he will not resign after acknowledging that his campaign office had unknowingly received illegal donations from a foreign supporter _ days after his foreign minister stepped down for a similar reason.

Kan explained during a parliamentary committee session that because the donor had a Japanese name, he did not know the individual was a foreign national. Political funding laws permit lawmakers to accept donations only from Japanese nationals to prevent domestic politics from being influenced by foreign countries.

"This person has a Japanese name, and I thought he was a Japanese citizen," Kan said.

Kan said his office was investigating the matter and would return the money in full if media reports are confirmed. Major daily the Asahi Shimbun reported earlier Friday that Kan received a total of 1.04 million yen ($12,500) between 2006 and 2009 from a South Korean resident of Japan.

The news adds to Kan's growing list of headaches as he faces tumbling approval ratings and gridlock in parliament. The opposition controls the upper house, making it difficult for the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to pass legislation, including the budget and related bills.

Earlier this week, Seiji Maehara resigned as foreign minister after acknowledging that he received a total of 250,000 yen ($3,000) over the past several years from a 72-year-old Korean woman who has lived most of her life in Japan.

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Koreans, many descended from laborers brought forcibly to Japan before and during World War II, live in the country legally but without citizenship. Many were born in Japan and have taken Japanese names and citizenship.

But some Koreans have decided against becoming naturalized as a way to maintain their ethnic identity or as a form of protest against the Japanese government for its past policies.

Kan said the donor was an individual introduced by a friend several years ago. It wasn't immediately clear if the donor was born in Japan.

His Cabinet stood by the embattled leader Friday. Trade Minister Banri Kaieda said he accepted Kan's explanation that the mistake was unintentional. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that returning the money in question would be an adequate show of responsibility.

"Former Foreign Minister Maehara made an individual decision (to resign)," Edano said. "As for the prime minister, he is not at all thinking of doing the same."