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Japanese Prime Minister Suga refuses to move to official residence despite criticism

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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has moved into his office from a nearby apartment complex instead of moving to the leader’s official residence since taking office, prompting criticism that he may be slow to respond in the event of a crisis.

Days after a major earthquake hit northeastern Japan late in the evening of February 13, former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of the main opposition party in the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan urged Suga to move to the prime minister’s residence, located next to the prime minister’s office, And call him. The “selfish” of the resistance.

The file photo taken in February 2019 shows the Japanese Prime Minister’s Office (right) and the official residence (left) in Tokyo. (Kyodo) == Kyodo

“A minute or two means a lot when it comes to managing crises,” said Noda, who lived in the dorm during his tenure 2011-2012.

Noda warned that the quake could damage roads in the capital and it might take more than 20 minutes to get to the office even though it is within a stone’s throw of the parliament housing.

Suga responded at a meeting of the House Budget Committee, saying that he was “ready to respond to crises even in the current situation.”

Likewise, Suga defended his decision not to move into housing in late January, saying, “Just because I live in the apartment, it does not mean that I cannot assume my responsibility as prime minister.”

The House of Representatives apartment complex is located in the Akasaka district of Tokyo, about 250 meters in a direct line from the prime minister’s office in Nagatasho, next to Akasaka.

The 72-year-old prime minister, shortly after taking office in mid-September, said he is considering moving the house, and has even been renovated at a cost of 4.39 million yen ($ 41,417). But he changed his mind later.

The spacious residence of 5183 square meters is fully equipped to enable the Prime Minister to work at any time of the day and has a resident physician upon his occupation. Maintenance fees totaled 160 million yen ($ 1.5 million) for fiscal 2020, even without longing living there.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks to reporters at his official residence in Tokyo in the early hours of January 28, 2021, after his first telephone conversations with President Joe Biden since the US leader took office the previous week. (Kyodo)

Suga uses the residence on limited occasions including teleconferences with foreign leaders or when he receives briefings on the Coronavirus at the weekend.

People close to Suga have speculated that he is unwilling to relocate as his wife Mariko would like to stay out of the spotlight.

When Suga became cabinet secretary in December 2012, he considered moving to the government’s spokesman’s residence at the Prime Minister’s Office, but decided to stay in the apartment to satisfy his wife’s wishes.

The prime minister’s wife was cooking meals for him recently because he hadn’t eaten out, according to people close to him. In December, Suga faced criticism for attending dinner parties despite the government warning the public to refrain from eating in large groups to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The official residence, originally constructed in 1929 as the office of the Prime Minister, has hosted seven leaders after being redesigned in 2005, including Suga predecessor Shinzo Abe.

But Abe, who lived largely in his residence during his short stint as leader between 2006 and 2007, moved 15 minutes from his home in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, on his second tour as prime minister between 2012 and 2020.

Abe made his decision as well, especially when it took 40 minutes to get to the office when North Korea launched ballistic missiles in July 2017.

However, an executive in Suga’s ruling coalition said he sympathized with the prime minister’s situation.

The executive said, “I can understand that he cannot relax when his workplace and residence are close to each other, and he has to take care of his wife as well.”

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