NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo Prefecture--The mayor of this city has issued a muddled apology after saying "I will kill you" to a newspaper journalist.

Takeshi Imamura, 45, spat the threat at The Yomiuri Shimbun reporter Jan. 4 after being asked about the mayoral election in April.

“Do not approach me," Imamura shouted. "I will have (your boss) pay for this.”

Shortly before that, Imamura had been attending a ceremony to mark the first working day of the year at city hall and had told executives and others at the event that he would not be standing in the next election, and would instead step down in May when his term of office expires.

When the reporter asked Imamura about his decision near the venue's door, the mayor blew his top, hurled the abuse and slipped into an elevator.

The newspaper later complained about Imamura's attitude, and the mayor responded by officially apologizing while expressing his annoyance.

“His behavior in rejecting to talk to the reporter was extremely inappropriate and his overbearing attitude trampled on the freedom of news gathering and news reporting, and we can never accept that,” said the public relations department of the Osaka head office of the newspaper. “We complained about Imamura, and requested an apology in writing.”

On the morning of Jan. 5, Imamura told reporters at the city hall: “I would like to apologize to the reporter to whom I shouted abusive words."

He also said that the reporter had previously pestered him, saying, "He entered my territory (when he was interviewed in late 2017)."

Having seemingly already apologized, Imamura said, “If (The Yomiuri Shimbun) apologizes to me, I will offer an apology for my abusive words.”

He also does not intend to offer an apology to residents of Nishinomiya, and will not step down over the incident.

(This article was written by Hidemasa Yoshizawa and Choi Chae-soo.)