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Unforced error mars new Abe cabinet's first days

'Amateur' territorial disputes minister sets back efforts to improve government's image

Fresh gaffes are hardly what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wanted from his new "cabinet of professionals."

TOKYO -- A series of gaffes has opposition lawmakers calling on Japan's new minister in charge of territorial disputes to resign less than a week after a cabinet reshuffle -- hardly an encouraging sign for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's attempt to regain the trust of a skeptical public.

Tetsuma Esaki's "amateur" remark put him in an uncomfortable spotlight.

By his own admission Saturday, Tetsuma Esaki, the cabinet pointman for the so-called Northern Territories claimed by both Japan and Russia, is "an amateur" regarding that longstanding island dispute. When answering questions in the parliament, Esaki plans to "read aloud statements prepared by the bureaucracy" to keep his facts straight, he told a gathering of supporters in his hometown near Nagoya.

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