Japanese minister resigns after criticism over death penalty remarks

Japan’s justice minister resigned on Friday after being criticized for claiming that his “low profile” position only generates media coverage when he approves the death penalty.

The resignation of Yasuhiro Hanashi is a further blow to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government, which is already facing a plummeting approval rating.

And it comes just weeks after the economic revitalization minister quit following scrutiny of his links to the Unification Church.

Hanashi said at a party with lawmakers this week that his job was “a low-profile position that only makes headlines on the midday news after giving the stamp of approval to the death penalty in the morning.”

Japan is one of the few developed countries that maintains the death penalty and public support for capital punishment remains high despite international criticism.

When he announced his resignation on Friday, Hanashi, who has been in office since August and has not overseen any executions, said he spoke “carelessly”.

Kishida was due to leave in the afternoon for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Cambodia, but delayed his departure until 1 a.m. to name a replacement for Hanashi.

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“I take seriously my own responsibility to appoint him in the first place. Facing the challenges ahead, I would like to fulfill my duties,” Kishida said.

The government’s low approval ratings are partly due to the controversy over politicians’ ties to the Unification Church.

The sect has been in the spotlight since reports emerged that the man accused of killing former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had a grudge against the organization over donations his mother made that bankrupted the family.

The church, officially known as the Federation of Families for Peace and World Unification, denied the criminal act.

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