Asia-Pacific

Resignation calls after Japan justice minister's gaffe

Prime Minister Naoto Kan
Image caption This is the latest in a series of political headaches for the embattled prime minister

Japan's justice minister is facing calls for his resignation after he was quoted as saying his job was easy and he had no idea why he had got it.

Minoru Yanagida told supporters he had to remember two phrases in parliament: "I won't comment on individual cases" and "I'm acting in accordance with the law and the evidence".

Prime Minister Naoto Kan has given Mr Yanagida a severe warning.

But opposition conservatives are calling for him to quit over the gaffe.

Mr Yanagida is reported to have made the remarks in a private gathering in his home constituency in Hiroshima Prefecture.

He said "I won't comment on individual cases" was a useful phrase in parliament, adding: "I use it whenever I don't understand."

The other was: "We're responding to the case in accordance with the law and evidence," he said.

Political headaches

His comments have enraged opposition officials who say they make light of parliamentary affairs.

In a desperate bid to settle the issue, Mr Kan said he had reprimanded the justice minister. "He'll sincerely answer questions from now on," he said.

This is the latest in a series of political headaches for the embattled prime minister.

Falling support for the centre-left government has complicated efforts to enact an extra budget to stimulate Japan's economy.

There is widespread public discontent with the struggling economy. Support for Mr Kan has also been undermined by criticism of his handling of territorial rows with China and Russia.

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