Japanese PM fires 4th minister to patch up scandal-hit cabinet

TOKYO – Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday fired its fourth minister in two months to patch up a scandal-ridden cabinet that has raised questions about its assessment of identity cards.

Kenya Akiba, minister for the reconstruction of Fukushima and other disaster-hit areas, has faced allegations of misappropriation of political funds and election funds and having murky ties to the Unification Church, whose cozy political affiliations and practices related to the giant donations from the followers have sparked controversy.

“I made a difficult decision and submitted my resignation,” Akiba told reporters after meeting Kishida. He reiterated that he had never broken any law in relation to the issues he was criticized for.

Kishida has tapped former Reconstruction Minister Hiromichi Watanabe as a replacement. Watanabe’s appointment was to be official after a palace ceremony.

Akiba’s sacking was seen as Kishida’s attempt to remove a government vulnerability that could block forthcoming parliamentary work on an important budget bill, including a hefty one defense spending with the aim of strengthening Japan’s clout.

Jun Azumi, a senior lawmaker from the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, who has criticized Kishida for making other slow decisions on his staff, said Monday that “four (dismissals) is too many and the prime minister for their appointment should be held accountable.”

Kishida on Tuesday also replaced Interior Minister Mio Sugita, who has made disparaging remarks about sexual and ethnic minorities in the past. Sugita said in 2018 that same-sex couples failed to father children and were “unproductive,” and in 2016 derided those who wear traditional ethnic costumes at a United Nations committee meeting as “middle-aged women in costume play.”

Kishida said Sugita tendered her resignation, stating that she could not bend her personal beliefs, while retracting some of her earlier comments.

Kishida was considered a stable choice as party leader after winning the July vote, but his popularity has plummeted due to the Liberal Democratic Party’s widespread ecclesiastical affiliations, which emerged after the assassination of former party leader Shinzo Abe.

The alleged shooter told investigators his mother’s donations to the church bankrupted his family and ruined his life. He was reportedly targeting Abe as a key figure behind the church’s ties to Japan’s LDP-led government.

Since then, revelations have surfaced about many LDP lawmakers who have friendly ties to the church, which has been criticized for allegedly brainwashing supporters into making huge donations. A new law passed by Parliament earlier this month aims to restrict such activities.

Economic Revitalization Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa resigned on October 24 after failing to explain his ties to the Unification Church. In early November, Justice Minister Yasuhiro Hanashi resigned after noting that his job was low profile and only made headlines when he signed the death penalty.

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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/12/27/japan-pm-sacks-4th-minister-to-patch-up-scandal-hit-cabinet/ Japanese PM fires 4th minister to patch up scandal-hit cabinet

Sarah Y. Kim

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