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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Mari Yamaguchi

Japan minister to quit over execution remark, PM delays trip


Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has decided to delay his departure Friday to Southeast Asia to attend three upcoming summits, apparently to sack his justice minister over a remark he made about capital punishment that was criticized as inappropriate.

Justice Minister Yasuhiro Hanashi was reportedly to submit his resignation Friday 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 to 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 apologized and retracted his comment during parliament sessions.

“I apologize and retract my remark that faced media reports that it made an impression that I was taking my responsibility lightly,” he said Thursday.

But media reports later revealed he had made similar remarks at other meetings over the past three months.

Kishida apparently was forced to urgently deal with the problem with his Cabinet before leaving on a nine-day trip to attend the ASEAN summit, as well as Group of 20 meeting in Indonesia and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bangkok.

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