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Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 08:33 GMT
Japanese papers see trouble for PM
Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka at a summit meeting
Makiko Tanaka had been criticised as foreign minister
Japanese newspapers on Wednesday saw danger ahead for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi following his dismissal of Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka.

Although there was general approval for the sacking, editorial writers feared that Koizumi would be weakened by the loss of the popular minister.

The protracted squabble in the ministry has crippled Japan's diplomatic functions

Nihon Keizai Shimbun
The daily Sankei Shimbun praised the move, calling on the prime minister to "normalize the nation's diplomatic functions".

"Tanaka's past behaviour and her conflict with foreign ministry bureaucrats had reached a point where they could no longer be ignored," the newspaper said.

Yomiuri Shimbun agreed, saying that the sacking of Tanaka - and the ministry's top bureaucrat, Yoshiji Nogami - was "only natural, considering that the foreign ministry has disgraced itself again by engulfing itself in yet another scandal."

Although it said all politicians had to take some responsibility for the mess, it said Tanaka's shortcomings as foreign minister led to her dismissal.

Koizumi has taken a political gamble

Asahi Shimbun
"Ever since her appointment, there have been many occasions when Tanaka's inconsistent remarks and lack of basic knowledge raised concerns that she was not qualified for the job," Japan's largest daily wrote.

Asahi Shimbun added: "There was no way of settling the dispute between Tanaka and Nogami... since they do not get along."

Political gamble

However, it said by deciding to replace his foreign minister, "Koizumi has taken a political gamble".

"His high public support ratings have been attributed partly to Tanaka's personal style," it pointed out.

Sankei Shimbun agreed, suggesting the short-term gains in parliament would be outweighed by the loss of Tanaka.

Tanaka's great popularity is a source of high public support ratings for the Koizumi administration

Sankei Shimbun
"Tanaka has enjoyed great popularity among the general public," it said, adding her support "is said to be higher than that of Koizumi."

"Tanaka's great popularity is a source of high public support ratings for the Koizumi administration."

"The Koizumi administration has suffered a considerable blow," the daily concludes.

The same warning came from Nihon Keizai Shimbun, which reported: "Some pundits say the move could prove to be politically devastating to him."

Dark future

Japan's leading business daily wrote: "The firing of a cabinet member whom Koizumi selected despite stiff opposition from within the ruling party is expected to cast a dark shadow on the future of his cabinet."

Koizumi... feared that the foreign ministry squabbles could hurt his public image

Nihon Keizai Shimbun
It speculated that Koizumi's decision was prompted by fears of a public backlash.

"The protracted squabble in the ministry has crippled Japan's diplomatic functions, heightening criticism of the government," the newspaper said.

"Koizumi, who relies strongly on high public approval because of weak support within his political party, feared the foreign ministry squabbles could hurt his public image," it said, adding that the prime minister consulted with senior party members before making the move.

Asahi Shimbun predicted the prime minister would come under pressure to jettison other cabinet members.

"Koizumi broke his public pledge of 'one cabinet, one set of ministers'," it said.

"Thus, it is anticipated that his breaking the 'principle' would lead to stimulating ruling parties' demand for a cabinet reshuffle," the paper wrote.

"The clouds have begun to gather over him," was its ominous conclusion.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

29 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Axe falls on Japanese foreign minister
26 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's controversial foreign minister
24 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Profile: Junichiro Koizumi
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