Japan's deputy land minister resigns over comment on favoring Abe

Source: Xinhua| 2019-04-05 13:45:32|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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TOKYO, April 5 (Xinhua) -- Japan's State Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism tendered his resignation on Friday for comments made that he upgraded a road construction project as a specific favor to two senior politicians.

Ichiro Tsukada controversially remarked in a speech on Monday that a project to upgrade a road, in southwestern Japan, was carried out as a favor to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Tsukada said the road upgrade project could link Abe's constituency of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture and Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture, the constituency of Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso.

The road has been dubbed the "Abe-Aso Road".

Tsukada remarked that the project to upgrade the road was as an unrequested favor to Abe and Aso, as the two senior politicians cannot talk about matters related to their own constituencies.

"I raised the level of the research to one directly managed by the government. I took the intentions of Abe and Aso into consideration," Tsukada said in a speech in Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, on Monday.

Tsukada, from Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), suggested that he had "guessed" what Abe and Aso were thinking and acted based on that.

Abe, for his part, said that Tsukada's remarks do not represent the facts and were "problematic", but did not insist on his stepping down. Tsukada should work hard to fulfill his duties, Abe said.

Tsukada has since retracted the comment.

"As my series of remarks were not true, I retract them and apologize," Tsukada said in a statement.

He also apologized at a Lower House Cabinet Committee meeting on April 3 for causing "big trouble".

Opposition parties have of late, however, been ramping up calls for Tsukada to step down from his position over the comment.

The fiscal 2019 budget includes the cost of a survey for the "Abe-Aso Road" project to be carried out directly by the national government, taking the place of surveys by local governments, the parties have pointed out, with Tsukada having essentially admitted to carrying out "pork-barrel" politics.

Executives of six opposition parties or parliamentary groups agreed at a meeting in the Diet on April 3 to demand that Tsukada resign as a vice land minister.

The Abe administration has previously been plagued by similar influence-peddling scandals related to operators of educational institutions believed to have close ties with Abe and, in at least one instance, also with his wife Akie.