TOKYO (Reuters) - The head of the Japanese navy is to be fired over the handling of a collision between a high-tech destroyer and a fishing boat that left two men missing, Kyodo news agency said on Friday.
Eiji Yoshikawa, chief of staff of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force, will be replaced mainly because the incident was not reported to Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba until 90 minutes after it happened, the report said.
The coastguard is investigating the cause of the collision in the ocean east of Tokyo early on Monday, when the area was crowded with small vessels. Though fatal accidents involving the military are rare in Japan, the incident sparked outrage, partly because pacifism has remained a strong influence since the end of World War Two.
Japan’s Democratic Party, which with its smaller opposition allies dominates the upper house of parliament, is calling for Ishiba himself to resign, but Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has brushed aside such suggestions.
The top government spokesman echoed Fukuda’s views.
“There have been political calls for his resignation or replacement. But we don’t want to do that, we want him to do his best to deal with this,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told reporters.
He quoted Fukuda as telling Ishiba, known for his depth of military knowledge, that he should do everything possible to reform the ministry. A series of scandals over procurement and leaks of classified information in recent months have undermined its credibility.
Democratic Party Secretary-General Yukio Hatoyama said on Thursday the opposition could pass a motion of no confidence against Ishiba in the upper house if he refused to resign. Such a motion would not force him to resign.
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