Japanese Minister Resigns after Fukushima Comments

Posted September 10th, 2011 at 9:50 am (UTC-5)
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Japan's trade minister has resigned after making comments deemed insensitive to people forced from their homes by the nuclear crisis earlier this year at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Yoshio Hachiro announced his resignation Saturday, after calling the area around the crippled facility a “town of death.”

Japanese media reported that after a visit to the plant Thursday, Hachiro also joked that he would infect a reporter with radiation.

Hachiro's resignation marks a setback for the new government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who took office and appointed a new cabinet eight days ago following the resignation of his predecessor, Naoto Kan.

Mr. Kan stepped down amid deep public disapproval of his administration's handling of the earthquake that devastated Japan in March and the ensuing crisis at the Fukushima plant.

The undersea earthquake that hit Japan was measured at magnitude 9.0 – one of the most powerful ever recorded.

A resulting tsunami destroyed all sources of power to cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, leading to core meltdowns in three of its six reactors. Workers have been struggling ever since to halt radioactive leakage into the ocean, air and soil around the plant.

More than 20,000 people are dead or missing from the earthquake and tsunami, and thousands more have been displaced from homes near the Fukushima plant.