- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2001

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's outspoken foreign minister, who has been engaged in a turf battle with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, agreed yesterday to dismiss Tokyo's ambassador to Washington and three other officials over a series of embezzlement scandals.
Makiko Tanaka had said earlier in the day she wanted to retain Ambassador Shunji Yanai because his experience would be helpful in arranging President Bush's visit to Japan in October.
But she visited Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda last night and said she would follow Mr. Koizumi's order that Mr. Yanai and three other officials should resign.
"I have reported that I will accept Prime Minister Koizumi's basic policy that the present and three previous vice foreign ministers should resign," Mrs. Tanaka told reporters after meeting with Mr. Fukuda.
The position of vice foreign minister is the top career position in the ministry, and officials who achieve it often later become ambassador to Washington. Mr. Yanai held the position before assuming his post as envoy to Washington, Japan's key ally.
The exact timing of the resignations, however, is not clear.
Mrs. Tanaka had been urged by the rest of Mr. Koizumi's Cabinet to accept the resignations of Mr. Yanai and three other officials who held the position of vice foreign minister while, investigators believe, money was being embezzled.
The ministry has recently been embarrassed by a series of scandals involving the misuse of taxpayers' money.
Mr. Yanai himself has not been accused of any impropriety. But news reports said he had offered to resign to take responsibility for a scandal involving the Japanese consul general in Denver. The consul general was dismissed after he was accused of embezzling government funds.
On Tuesday, a diplomat fired in a separate scandal surrounding a secret ministry fund pleaded guilty to fraud. He was accused of having bought race horses and other luxury items with the money.
The turf battle between Mrs. Tanaka and Mr. Koizumi comes on the heels of a highly public struggle between Mrs. Tanaka and the rest of her ministry, which has resisted her plans to punish those involved in the scandals.
Soon after taking office in April, Mrs. Tanaka was criticized for her abrasive style, and officials in her own ministry accused her of damaging relations with the United States.
More recently, she was criticized for admitting at a campaign stop in the run-up to last Sunday's parliamentary elections that she did not know the name of the candidate for whom she was campaigning.

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