TOKYO (AP) – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delayed his departure yesterday to Southeast Asia’s three upcoming summits in order to sack and find a replacement for his justice minister over a remark he made about capital punishment that was criticised
Justice Minister Yasuhiro Hanashi told reporters he submitted his resignation yesterday to Kishida, two days after he made a comment at a party meeting that his low-profile job makes lunchtime news only when he uses his ‘hanko’ stamp to approve executions in the morning.
The remark quickly sparked criticisms from the opposition and even within Kishida’s governing party and could further shake his government, which is already mired in a controversy over its decades-long ties with the Unification Church, a South Korea-based religious sect accused in Japan of problematic recruitment and brainwashing adherents into making huge donations.
Hanashi, a member of Kishida’s own party faction, was in office only three months and will be the second minister to be dismissed since the prime minister shuffled his Cabinet in August in a failed attempt to turn around his government’s plunging popularity.
Last month, Daishiro Yamagiwa resigned as economy minister after facing criticism for failing to explain his links to the Unification Church. Hanashi was slammed for giving the impression that he takes executions lightly, at a time Japan already faces international criticism for maintaining capital punishment.
He apologised on Thursday during Parliament sessions. “I apologise and retract my remark that faced media reports that it made an impression that I was taking my responsibility lightly,” he said.