Japan's Mori Criticized on Sub Crash

Sunday, February 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TOKYO (AP) — Critics of Japan's prime minister — and even a leader of his own coalition — are berating him for finishing a round of golf after hearing about the submarine accident that left nine Japanese missing.

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori reportedly stayed on the links with old college friends for two hours Saturday after hearing that the USS Greeneville rammed into a Japanese fishing trawler, sending all 35 people aboard into diesel-soaked seas.

``I think he should have stopped playing golf immediately and returned to his office,'' Takenori Kanzaki, leader of the New Komei Party that is part of Mori's governing coalition, said on a Fuji Television news program.

The national Asahi newspaper reported the golf incident on its front page and quoted Hisao Iwajima, a former Defense Agency official, as saying: ``He has no sense of crisis.''

Mori reportedly defended his decision to finish the game.

``It would not get any of us anywhere if I rushed and got all flustered,'' he was quoted as saying by the Kyodo news agency. Remaining on the golf course, he said, was ``the safest course of action.''

The unpopular Mori has become a frequent target of critics since taking office last April. His gaffes — such as comments evoking Japan's militaristic past — have become something of a running joke in the country.

Even regional leaders of his own Liberal Democratic Party have entered the fray recently, making a TV commercial in which an irate housewife screams into a phone: ``Things are so bad, I'd be a better prime minister!''

The party ordered its branch in northern Miyagi Prefecture to cut out the offending line. The Miyagi officials responded by replacing it with a long censor's beep.