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Japanese Prime Minister Candidate Aso's "Anti-Semite Charge"

  Please notice that the following Kyodo reports don't carry all of Aso's remarks and answers.

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Aso says Japan should be country to attract wealthy Jews

TOKYO, April 19


Taro Aso, minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, said Thursday that Japan should become a country where rich Jewish people and other wealthy people from around the world want to live.

Aso, one of four candidates running for president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said the ''best country'' in the world would be one that attracts wealthy migrants, singling out Jewish people.

Asked if such a remark were discriminative, he said, ''I think very few Japanese would care about my citing the Jewish as an example...It could be Armenians or overseas Chinese or any group around the world criticized for being rich.''

Japan already offers a high level of public safety and little discrimination against foreigners but is not competitive for the world's wealthy in terms of taxes and national security, he said.

The 60-year-old minister told the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan that Japan should reform its tax system to cut income and inheritance taxes, which he described as ''too high'' compared with other industrialized countries.

Aso said his experience in economic affairs sets him apart from the other candidates for the LDP presidency, which will almost certainly carry with it the job of prime minister because the LDP-led coalition controls a majority in the House of Representatives, which has the final say in picking the premier.

''When it comes to economic issues, I believe I'm the best person who really has first-hand knowledge of the real economy among the four candidates,'' he said. ''I served as president of a company with 4,000-5,000 employees'' in reference to his family-run Aso Cement Co.

''There are many problems facing Japan,'' he said. ''Yet the economy should be given the highest priority.''

The three other candidates in the LDP race are former Health and Welfare Minster Junichiro Koizumi, former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and LDP policy chief Shizuka Kamei.


Human rights body criticizes Aso over comments involving Jews

NEW YORK, April 19


A human rights organization fighting anti-Semitism on Thursday criticized Taro Aso, Japan's minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, over his remark that the best country in the world is where wealthy migrants such as Jews would want to live.

The remarks about Jews and others ''reflect deep misperceptions and stereotypes'' and are inappropriate for someone running for the leadership of a major political party and prime minister, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in a statement.

Aso, 60, is one of four Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmakers running in Tuesday's LDP presidential election to replace outgoing Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.

''I'm saying this from my dogmatic prejudice, but I see that the best country (in the world) would be one in which rich Jewish people want to live...Or it could be Armenians or overseas Chinese or any group around the world criticized for being rich,'' Aso said Thursday at a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo.

''Given his political aspirations, we would hope that Minister Aso would commit to educating himself on the history of anti-Semitism and prejudice,'' said Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director.

A new LDP president will almost certainly carry with it the job of prime minister because the LDP-led coalition controls a majority in the House of Representatives, which has the final say in picking the premier.

Thursday April 19 8:24 AM ET

Japan Pol Seeks Wealthy Immigrants

By ERIC PRIDEAUX, Associated Press Writer

TOKYO (AP) - A candidate in the race to lead Japan's ruling party said Thursday that the ideal country would attract ``the richest Jewish people'' and other groups seen as affluent.

``Maybe I'm saying this from my dogmatic prejudice, but the way I see it, the best country in the world would be a country where the richest Jewish people would want to live,'' Economic Minister Taro Aso told reporters in Tokyo. ``Or it could be Armenians, or overseas Chinese, or any group around the world criticized for being rich.''

Wealthy people would want to move to a country without racial discrimination, with safe streets and low taxes, and with a strong national defense, he said, describing what he sees as the perfect nation.

Aso suggested that Japan is relatively free of prejudice since people here cannot distinguish well between foreigners.

``Japanese people can't tell whether foreigners are Jewish, Italian or Spanish, the same way foreigners can't tell the difference betweenJapanese, Vietnamese, Chinese and Koreans,'' he said.

Foreigners in Japan often complain of prejudice in housing and employment. The concept of discrimination is little understood in largely homogeneous Japan, where many people are suspicious of foreigners and believe that greater diversity would disturb racial harmony.

Aso is one of four candidates seeking the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party. Because of the LDP's power in Parliament, the winner is assured of becoming prime minister. Aso is seen as having little chance of winning.

Several prominent Japanese politicians have drawn sharp criticism for their remarks about race.

In 1986, then-Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said Americans' intelligence was inferior ``because of a considerable number of blacks, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans.''

Last year, outspoken Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara warned that immigrants might riot if a major earthquake struck.

Aso said he doubted that his comment would hurt him. ``Maybe foreigners think referring to Jewish people as an example will backfire on me, but in Japan there's little chance it will become a problem,'' Aso said.

Also Thursday, an ally of Ryutaro Hashimoto, one of the leading candidates, suggested that the former prime minister would retain the ruling party's current leaders if he is selected to lead the party.

Hiromu Nonaka, a powerful supporter of Hashimoto, said the current leadership should remain in office under the new administration to provide the continuity needed to carry our economic reforms and other pressing government business.

The statement was seen as an attempt to woo the support of party policy chief Shizuka Kamei, who along with Hashimoto is seeking to replace unpopular Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori (news - websites) in the elections next Tuesday.

The four candidates seeking to replace Mori - Hashimoto, Aso, Kamei and Junichiro Koizumi - held a debate on Wednesday which focused on the country's sputtering economy.

An unusual aspect of the debate, like the campaign, was the candidates' discussions of policy. Political talk here usually focuses on party factions and support groups, and Japanese sometimes complain that government decisions affecting their daily lives are made in private and without their input.

The four have not aired their views in great detail, or produced platforms or position papers, but they have raised broad issues and sometimes clashed over them.

Candidate Gaffe Risks Anti-Semite Charge


Thursday April 19 10:04 AM ET

TOKYO (Reuters) - In remarks that could spark charges of anti-Semitism, a contender in the race to become Japan's next leader said Thursday that Japan should aim to become a nation in which ``rich Jews'' would want to live.

``This might be arbitrary and biased, but I think the best country is one in which rich Jews feel like living,'' Economics Minister Taro Aso, one of four candidates seeking to become president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and hence prime minister, told reporters.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, he said such a country would have no racial discrimination but good public safety, low taxes and good national security.

Asked why he had singled out one particular group, Aso, 60, said he had not intended to be discriminatory and was just giving one example.

But he added that many of the foreign entertainers who appear on Japanese television programs were ``Jews with a good command of Japanese.''

``Japanese cannot distinguish between Jews, Italians or Spanish. But by the same token, foreigners cannot tell the difference between Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese and South Koreans,'' he said.

Aso also boasted that Japan was one of the safest countries in the world. ``It is very unlikely that a woman walking alone in Hibiya Park (in central Tokyo) late at night would be assaulted,'' he said. ``It has nothing to do with whether she is beautiful or not.''

But it was a ``miracle'' if a woman walking in New York's Central Park or Hyde Park in London alone late at night was not assaulted, he said.

Aso, who is expected to trail the other four candidates in the LDP leadership race, hails from an elite political lineage. He is the grandson of the late Shigeru Yoshida, Japan's prime minister from 1946-1954.

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