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Koizumi Dismisses Controversial Foreign Minister


Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has dismissed his controversial foreign minister, Makiko Tanaka. The move may prove risky, since Ms. Tanaka is one of Japan's most popular politicians.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has taken on the additional role of acting foreign minister while he searches for a replacement for Makiko Tanaka, Japan's first female foreign minister.

He asked for her resignation late Tuesday night after a spat she was having with an aide threatened to stall legislation meant to boost the economy. Parliamentary business apparently had been eclipsed by the issue, which was related to Ms. Tanaka's claim that a prominent member of parliament tried to bar some aid groups from a recent Tokyo conference on rebuilding Afghanistan.

Opposition lawmakers grilled the prime minister Wednesday, demanding a further investigation into the feud. Mr. Koizumi tells lawmakers that "Ms. Tanaka understood his decision."

He also says that political stability is vital since the government is trying to revive the economy and end Japan's fourth recession in a decade.

Ms. Tanaka had been at odds with her deputies ever since Mr. Koizumi appointed her last April. She publicly ridiculed Foreign Ministry bureaucrats for corruption and inefficiency. But she also came under fire for a series of diplomatic blunders.

Her dismissal could come back to haunt Mr. Koizumi, who has been popular with voters for his charismatic style and push to reform the economy. Despite the controversy surrounding Ms. Tanaka, she remains well liked by Japanese voters, who say they admire her. Many Japanese might agree with this office worker, who says he "thinks Ms. Tanaka reflected the voice of the people."

By Wednesday afternoon, Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party had received several hundred telephone calls from voters, who said they wanted to see Ms. Tanaka back in public office.