TOKYO, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Japan's main opposition Democratic Party on Tuesday vehemently called for Defense Minister Tomomi Inada to quit for flip-flopping over her connection to a controversial school operator in Osaka.
The Democratic Party maintains that Inada has lied about giving Moritomo Gakuen, an institution central to a shady land deal with the government, legal advice and representing the controversial school in a trial and that she should quit immediately as defense minister.
Inada, following a scathing attack form the main opposition party, apologized in parliament Tuesday saying she "forget" that she served as legal counsel for the school operator and gave it legal advice and that her "memory had failed her."
Having first denied any connections with the controversial school operator, Inada made a full U-turn on Tuesday and officially retracted her remarks.
The school operator first made headlines for its kindergarten's nationalist curriculum and its head teacher and school operator, Yasunori Kagoike, disseminating hate speech.
With calls intensifying for her to step down for knowingly lying about her deep connections to the controversial school operator, Inada told a House of Representatives plenary session that she was "sorry" and would "sincerely" continue to perform her role as defense minister for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Inada, a former lawyer, had represented Moritomo Gakuen in December 2004 in a suit brought by the operator, sources with knowledge of the matter have proved. Inada, however, earlier on Tuesday denied having any knowledge of the matter.
"If that is indeed in the court record, I would assume that I appeared instead of my husband, who was handling the case, because he could not make it," Inada, whose husband, Ryuji Inada, is also a lawyer, told a press briefing Tuesday, following a Cabinet meeting.
Policy chief Hiroshi Ogushi of the main opposition Democratic Party, in response to Inada's false claim subsequently told a press briefing that "this warrants resignation. Inada is not qualified to be defense minister."
Democratic Party Diet affairs chief Kazunori Yamanoi also slammed Inada for lying about her connection to the school and then trying to justify her wrongdoing. He called for her immediate resignation at a meeting of his counterparts from different parties on Tuesday, according to local media.
Inada, reversing her earlier claims that she had no connection, said she was acquainted with Kagoike, but cut ties with him due to his offensive attitude.
"I was acquainted with Kagoike in the past, but 10 years ago he did a very rude thing to me and I cut off my ties with him," Inada said on Tuesday.
"In any case, the earlier case happened 13 years ago and has no connection with the current issue, so I don't think this is something for which I should take responsibility," the defense minister told reporters Tuesday.
Along with Inada trying and failing to distance herself from Moritomo Gakuen and Kagoike himself, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also found himself in hot water for having ties to the school, and has also tried to deny being connected.
Abe has persistently said that he has no connections to the school or the cut-price land sale, despite the fact that the school had used his name to raise donations for the new school, which was to be built in his name, with his wife, Akie, to be its honorary president.
Akie abruptly stepped down as president following the escalation of the scandals regarding the nationalist Tsukamoto kindergarten's dissemination of hate speech and its operators shady purchase of cut-price state-owned land.
Moritomo Gakuen was initially awarded substantial state subsidies for building a new school after it submitted to the government hugely inflated estimates for construction costs.
The Osaka-based school operator bought the 8,770-square-meter piece of land for 134 million yen (1.16 million U.S. dollars), which is equivalent to just 14 percent of its appraisal price.
The Osaka prefectural government, local media said Tuesday, is now possibly preparing to file a criminal complaint against Moritomo Gakuen over the contract irregularities, although the operator has already pulled its bid to open the new school.
The furor over the scandals has seen the support rate for Abe's Cabinet slump 6 percent from a month earlier to 55.7 percent, according to a poll by Kyodo News.
Around 86.5 percent of those surveyed said the land purchase by Moritomo Gakuen was "inappropriate" with the same number of people saying the government has yet to fully account for its involvement in the dodgy deal.