Fumiaki Matsumoto resigns from role as vice minister after jeer about recent U.S. military helicopter trouble

January 27, 2018 Ryukyu Shimpo

Fumiaki Matsumoto, vice minister for the Cabinet Office from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), tendered his resignation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the afternoon of January 26, one day after inappropriately mocking the recent U.S. military helicopter troubles in Okinawa at the House of Representatives the day before, responding to a question about the situation with the jeer, “How many people died from that?” The Prime Minister has accepted the resignation. Matsumoto commented after, saying, “I apologize for causing trouble for the people of Okinawa and Japan with my misleading remarks.”

In order to contain the effect of this on the Nago mayoral elections to a minimum, the Prime Minister has deemed it necessary to quickly get the situation under control. As such, they are hurrying to find a replacement in the role. Matsumoto has said he will not resign from the House of Representatives.

The problematic remarks occurred January 25 at the Lower House of the Diet. While Japanese Communist Party Chairman (JCP) Kazuo Shii was taking questions, he raised the issue of the continuing trouble with U.S. military helicopters in Okinawa, and after requesting that new base construction in Henoko be stopped, Matsumoto heckled from his seat, “How many people died from that?”

Prime Minister Abe noted when he accepted the resignation at the Kantei (the Office of the Prime Minister), “Since the country is going through a difficult period, we must treat these matters with sensitivity.” To reporters, Matsumoto apologized again saying, “It can only be described as unethical.”

Regarding his intent with the remarks, Matsumoto explained that he was arguing for the continuation of the relocation of MCAS Futenma to Henoko in Nago, saying, “Many Okinawan and American lives are being lost due to things like training exercises. It was with that in mind that I made my remark.”

Matsumoto is a 4th term representative elected in the Lower House’s Tokyo Proportional Representation (PR) block. He was reappointed Cabinet Office vice minister in August of last year. He also served as the vice Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs in 2015.

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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