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Japan appoints new reconstruction minister

From Nicolas Ito, CNN
Ryu Matsumoto leaves a press conference after announcing his resignation at his office in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Ryu Matsumoto leaves a press conference after announcing his resignation at his office in Tokyo on Tuesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Tatsuo Hirano to succeed Ryu Matsumoto
  • Matsumoto had been appointed to the nearly created ministerial position nine days ago
  • His leaving puts Prime Minister Naoto Kan under pressure
  • Japan is struggling to rebuild after this year's devastating earthquake and tsunami
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Tokyo (CNN) -- Japan appointed on Tuesday Senior Vice Minister Tatsuo Hirano to be reconstruction minister following the resignation of Ryu Matsumoto over remarks he made over the weekend, according to the prime minister's office.

Matsumoto resigned after facing heavy criticism for remarks he made to mayors of the disaster-stricken Tohoku area.

He had been appointed to the newly created ministerial position only nine days ago.

During a meeting on Sunday with Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai, Matsumoto said that help would not arrive unless the prefecture came up with reconstruction ideas of its own.

Miyagi was one of the areas hardest hit by this year's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Matsumoto also refused to shake hands when Murai entered the meeting room in that meeting. He proceeded to lecture the governor about seniority systems, insisting that the host should enter the room before the guest.

Matsumoto apologized on Monday for any harsh or lack of words which may have offended tsunami victims and promised that his intentions have always been in their best interest.

Before becoming Reconstruction minister, Matsumoto helped tsunami victims as the government's environment and disaster minister. "It was an enormous job, and I have witnessed as many miracles as hellish situations," he said.

He declared that he remains committed to the rebuilding of the tsunami stricken areas and that he has no intention of distancing himself from the disaster victims.

Matsumoto's resignation is a fresh political blow to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who has been fighting off pressure demanding his immediate resignation.

Several members from the opposition party have jumped on the occasion to question Kan's capacity of taking responsibility for Matsumoto's actions and leading the country.

Kan is expected to appoint Matsumoto's successor during the day.

CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki contributed to this report.

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