Japan foreign minister says won't quit: report

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 18, 2011 4:13 PM

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said on Saturday that he wants to stay in his post despite pressure to quit for accepting donations from a foreign national, Kyodo news agency reported.

Maehara's resignation would be a blow to unpopular Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his ruling Democratic Party (DPJ) as Kan fights to keep his own job and avoid calling a snap election while trying to enact budget bills in a divided parliament.

"It is important for me to perform my duties and give a clear explanation" of the donation scandal, Kyodo quoted Maehara as telling a news conference in southern Japan.

Maehara, a security hawk who is often cited as a possible successor to Kan should the premier resign, admitted on Friday that he had accepted donations from a Korean resident of Japan who was a childhood friend, but said he had done so unknowingly.

Taking political donations from foreign nationals is illegal if done intentionally.

The donation affair adds to a long list of troubles for Kan, whose support rate has sunk to around 20 percent due to policy flipflops and perceived diplomatic missteps since he took office last June as Japan's fifth premier since 2006.

Kan is under pressure either to resign or call an early poll as his clout in the fractious ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) weakens and opposition parties refuse to cooperate with him on pushing through budget bills in the divided parliament.

The stalemate is also preventing Kan from getting opposition help on tax reforms, including a future rise in the 5 percent sales tax, that he argues are vital to fund the costs of a fast-aging society and curb public debt already twice the size of the $5 trillion economy.

(Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)