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Ex-Japanese Minister Doubts Koizumi on Reforms - 2002-02-21

Former Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka criticized Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Wednesday during an address to Parliament. She raised doubts about his promise to reform Japan's political system.

One day after President Bush visited Japan and praised Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's reform program, Makiko Tanaka accused the Japanese leader of blocking her efforts to end corruption in Japan's powerful Foreign Ministry.

She said Wednesday that she was shocked by Mr. Koizumi's decision to oust her last month, following a series of spats with her aides. She made the comments as she testified to Parliament about one of those disputes.

She says the prime minister repeatedly told her that she was in charge of the Foreign Ministry. She says he asked her to clean it up, but that there were people hindering her.

Ms. Tanaka called Mr. Koizumi himself an obstacle to her reform agenda. The prime minister has seen his popularity tumble since Ms. Tanaka left office. He swept to power last year by vowing to reform the Japanese economy and political system, in which bureaucrats wield tremendous authority.

During President Bush's visit, which ended Tuesday, Mr. Koizumi vowed to push ahead with his agenda, despite opposition within his own party. However, recent polls and media editorials reflect growing public impatience with the lack of concrete action since Mr. Koizumi took office last April.