Japan's leader rejects calls for resignation

Japan's unpopular Prime Minister Naoto Kan refused to resign Wednesday as opposition lawmakers criticizing his disaster management prepared to file a no-confidence motion in parliament.

"What is most sought by the people is for us to work together to achieve reconstruction and resolve the nuclear crisis," Kan told a parliamentary session. "I must respond to their needs and that is my responsibility."

Kan is facing calls for his resignation from opposition lawmakers and even some members of his own ruling party. Opposition parties were expected to submit a no-confidence motion against him later Wednesday.

He is most likely to survive the motion because his Democratic Party of Japan controls the powerful lower house of parliament. But dozens of ruling lawmakers may support the motion to pressure Kan to step down, a move that could split his party.

An earthquake and tsunami on March 11 damaged cooling systems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, causing the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl. The twin disasters also left more than 24,000 people dead or missing in northeastern Japan.

Kan, who became prime minister just a year ago, has been criticized for delays in construction of temporary housing for evacuees, lack of transparency about evacuation information, and a perceived lack of leadership.

"You should step down," said Sadakazu Tanigaki, head of the largest opposition group, the Liberal Democratic Party. "It's impossible to achieve disaster reconstruction under your leadership."

Tanigaki's party planned to submit a motion along with smaller opposition groups, with a vote expected Thursday. If it passes, Kan would have to order the resignation of his Cabinet or dissolve the 480-seat lower house for elections.