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Japan's outspoken foreign minister said "blue-eyed, blond" Westerners probably would not be as successful as the Japanese in Middle East diplomacy, media reported Thursday.
Taro Aso made the remarks Wednesday during a speech in southwestern Japan, business daily Nikkei reported. National newspaper Mainichi carried a similar report.
"Japan is doing what the Americans can't do. The Japanese are trusted. It's probably no good with blue eyes and blond hair," he was quoted as saying by the papers, referring to projects in Jordan River Rift Valley initiated by Japan.
"Luckily, we have yellow faces. We have no history of exploitation there or ... fired a machine gun for once," Aso said, according to the reports.
Takashi Sasaki, one of Aso's aides, confirmed the minister gave a speech to a group of local assembly members in Nagasaki on diplomacy including Japan's policy on Middle East, but refused to confirm the exact wording of the speech.
Japan, which wants to deepen its engagement with the Middle East, hosted a confidence-building conference in Tokyo earlier this month attended by officials from Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan.
The conservative minister is known for making gaffes. Aso has irked China with provocative remarks such as calling the country a military threat and attributing Taiwan's high educational standards to Japanese colonial rule in the first half of the 20th century.