BREAK UP JAPAN'S MOF

Top officials at Japan's most powerful agency are dropping quickly. Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka resigned Wednesday over that country's banking and bribery scandals. A banking inspector was found Wednesday night hanging by a necktie. And the ministry's top bureaucrat, Takeshi Komura, resigned Thursday. Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto may be next.

Japan has been economically challenged for a decade as elite and secretive finance officials cover their misdeeds, deny incestuous market practices and underplay debt problems. Japan should seize this rare opportunity to break up the Ministry of Finance - which combines elements of the U.S. Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Securities and Exchange Commission, Office of Management and Budget, Congress, Federal Reserve and six other U.S. agencies. Strike while the system doth rot.

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