Taro Aso might be remembered by some as the last prime minister to serve during the revolving-door era of political leadership that occurred in the last decade in Japan, with the country being led by five different men between 2006 and 2012. During that time and elsewhere in is political career, however, Aso has also become well-known for his numerous gaffes such as saying he wanted to make Japan a country that “rich Jews” would want to live.
Now serving as Deputy PM and Minister of Finance, Aso’s legacy of inappropriate comments lives on. Following the recent visit by US President Barack Obama, the former prime minister felt it was time to give his two cents about the American leader.
On the morning of 25 April, a cabinet meeting was held to discuss the previous week’s negotiations with the U.S. president for a free-trade agreement between North American, South American, and Asian countries along with Australia and New Zealand, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Following the proceedings, Minister Aso met with the press to discuss his take on the matter:
“I’m not sure Obama has the power to unite his country… Even if these talks came to a settlement he wouldn’t be able to get it through Congress…”
Regardless of whether you agree with Aso’s feelings on Obama, I think we can all agree it’s probably not the best time for any high-ranking cabinet member to voice them. Despite claims that talks between Obama and Abe were fruitful, Japan is still fighting for certain conditions to protect certain parts of its agriculture industry.
However, the Abe administration likely isn’t shocked by Aso’s ability to speak his mind yet again. This is just one in a long line of troublesome remarks he has made, such as his saying that Japan was better equipped to handle trouble in the Middle East because of the people’s “yellow faces” as opposed to the Americans “blue eyes and blond hair.”
Last year, Aso said during talks regarding Japan’s pacifist constitution that “the German Weimar constitution changed, without being noticed, to the Nazi German constitution. Why don’t we learn from their tactics?” He later retracted the statement.
In lighter incidents he also has a recurring habit of misreading kanji characters during his speeches and couldn’t answer what the price of a standard Cup Noodle is (he thought around 400 yen [US$4]).
When Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was asked about result of talks following President Obama’s visit, he replied:
“Because [Japan and the USA] reached an agreement on the necessary steps [to joining the TPP] we can move towards that. While considering each other’s important concerns, we were able to find a way to achieve a comprehensive high-level agreement.”
If Suga is correct then we can expect a new trade agreement with Japan and many of its Pacific Ocean neighbors. Hopefully whatever agreement they reach will not interfere with the Cup Noodle shop I’m setting up near Taro Aso’s home.