Bowing to heavy criticism for repeatedly ignoring reporters’ questions, Foreign Minister Taro Kono apologized in his blog on Dec. 15 and vowed not to do it again.

“At the least, I should have said, ‘I will refrain from answering the question,’ which I often did in past news conferences,” he said in the blog. “I offer my apology and will fully change my attitude.”

Kono came under heavy fire from opposition party politicians and various media outlets for ignoring reporters’ questions four times at a news conference on Dec. 11.

When asked about his take of remarks by his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, about negotiations on a peace treaty between Japan and Russia, Kono replied, “Next question, please.”

Lavrov recently said Japan’s recognition of the outcome of World War II is “the first step” in the talks.

Kono kept repeating, “Next question, please,” when other reporters posed questions relevant to the topic.

When asked why he just kept saying, “Next question, please,” Kono repeated the same phrase.

In his blog, Kono explained: “I said, ‘Next question, please’ to mean that I cannot answer the question.”

He also said he wanted to spend more time on such topics as the digitization of documents at the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Archives at the news conference, rather than seeing the proceedings dominated by questions about the Japan-Russia talks that he could not discuss due to the sensitive nature of the issue.

In response to criticism that he does not explain Japan’s position in peace treaty talks with Russia, Kono countered with a gambling analogy, saying, “(Asking for an explanation) is like asking us to play a game of poker by showing our cards.”

His apology in the blog came after the press club covering the Foreign Ministry filed a written complaint on Dec. 11 as he did not fulfill his responsibility to be accountable to the public.