CNN, March 22, 2007
Blond, blue-eyed Westerners probably can’t be as successful at Middle East diplomacy as Japanese with their “yellow faces,” Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso was quoted by media as saying on Wednesday.
“Japan is doing what Americans can’t do,” the Nikkei business daily quoted the gaffe-prone Aso as saying in a speech.
“Japanese are trusted. If (you have) blue eyes and blond hair, it’s probably no good,” he said.
“Luckily, we Japanese have yellow faces.”
Foreign Ministry officials were unable to comment on the report, which said Aso elaborated by saying Japan had never exploited the Middle East, started a war there or fired a shot.
Aso, seen in some circles as a contender to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe if the Japanese leader runs into trouble in a July election for parliament’s upper house, is known for verbal gaffes.
He also drew criticism in 2001 when, as economics minister, he said he hoped to make Japan the kind of country where “rich Jews” would want to live.
Japan has long felt it has a special role to play in the Middle East because it lacks much of the political baggage of the United States, allowing for warmer ties with Arab nations.