Friday, May 08, 2009

Aso says having children an 'obligation,' but later retracts remark

Gaffe-prone Prime Minister Taro Aso said Thursday that he has fulfilled an ‘‘obligation’’ because he has two children, but he later retracted the remark made during a parliamentary debate about Japan’s declining birthrate.

‘‘I may well have fulfilled an obligation because I have had two children since getting married at 43,’’ Aso told the House of Representatives Budget Committee in a debate with Chinami Nishimura, a lawmaker of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

‘‘I do not hear people say in this country that it is good to have a child or it is fun (to have child). I keep hearing that it (having a child) is tough,’’ Aso said, noting he enjoys seeing his children, who are 20 and 23.

But he later retracted the remark, saying there are various reasons for not having a child.

‘‘I think that the word ‘obligation’ was inappropriate,’’ Aso said. ‘‘There are people who cannot have a child even though they want to, and there are people who are unable to give birth for physical reasons. There are various reasons.’’

The 68-year-old premier, who took office last September, has seen a decline in the support rate for his cabinet in the past following a series of verbal gaffes on political, financial and social issues.