Photo/IllutrationLower House member Hodaka Maruyama, right, with Takashi Tachibana, leader of NHK Kara Kokumin o Mamoru To (The party to protect the public from NHK), in July (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

A Diet member who sparked public outrage and drew a unanimous vote of condemnation by the Lower House by suggesting war be waged against Russia to regain disputed islands off Hokkaido has made warmongering remarks again.

Hodaka Maruyama, who has scoffed at the Lower House’s stern warning by making fresh comments that appear to support war as a means to resolve a territorial dispute, should not be allowed to continue occupying a seat in the chamber.

At the end of August, Maruyama suggested Japan should wage war against South Korea to take back Takeshima after a group of South Korean lawmakers landed on the disputed islets off Shimane Prefecture in the Sea of Japan.

“Can Takeshima be returned (to Japan) through negotiations?” Maruyama said in a tweet on Aug. 31. “The only way to take them back is through war, isn’t it?”

While the Japanese government claims that Takeshima is an integral part of Japanese territory, South Korea has been effectively administering the group of islets since the 1950s.

Maruyama ridiculed the Foreign Ministry’s protest to South Korea over its lawmakers’ action as a powerless verbal cannon and further tweeted, “We should not rule out any option including the deployment of Self-Defense Forces to drive out illegal occupants (of the island) including during a security emergency in the Korean Peninsula, should we?”

Both Article 9 of the Constitution and the United Nations Charter refuse to sanction use of force as a means to settle international disputes.

Maruyama has crossed a moral red line for a Diet member by repeatedly making remarks that totally disregard this cardinal principle.

In May, he accompanied a delegation on a visa-free exchange program for Japanese who were forced off Kunashiri, one of the disputed islands off Hokkaido, after the war. On the visit, Maruyama asked the head of the delegation of former islanders and family members if he supported going to war to take back the islands, asserting that "nothing will be accomplished unless we go to war.”

After his remarks set off a storm of criticism, Maruyama apologized and retracted them, saying they were inappropriate and had caused misunderstanding. But his party, Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), expelled Maruyama.

The Lower House in June unanimously adopted a resolution effectively urging Maruyama to resign, saying, “We cannot help but judge that he is unqualified to serve as a Diet member.”

But Maruyama refused to step down and declined to attend a hearing by the directors of the Lower House Committee on Rules and Administration, citing poor health.

Japan’s ties with South Korea are said to be in their worst shape since the establishment of a formal diplomatic relationship in 1965 due to a flurry of disputes including one over compensation of wartime Korean laborers, known as “choyoko” (drafted workers).

The bilateral relations are in a serious crisis with a series of tit-for-tat actions taken by both governments harming economic ties and grass-roots exchanges between the two countries as well.

Taking an action to stir up even more antagonism between the two nations is the last thing politicians of either country should do now.

What they should do at the moment is to offer good ideas to prevent further deterioration of the bilateral ties.

Remarks playing to the negative public sentiment against South Korea only hamper constructive efforts to improve the situation.

Maruyama, elected from the Osaka No. 19 constituency, joined the newly established NHK Kara Kokumin o Mamoru To (The party to protect the public from NHK) in July. NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corp.) is a public broadcaster.

The party, called N-Koku for short, should be severely criticized for inviting Hodaka to join it despite the Lower House’s declaration that he is not fit for his job.

Takashi Tachibana, the leader of the party, on Sept. 2 dismissed criticism against Maruyama, citing “freedom of expression.” What Maruyama said “falls in the category of attempts to raise issues,” Tachibana said.

But Maruyama’s remarks do not deserve to be called a credible argument. He only engaged in irresponsible rabble-rousing.

As its resolution to condemun Maruyama has been blatantly ignored, the Lower House should not simply let the situation go without taking action.

The ruling and opposition parties should adopt a united front in making clear the house’s will to pressure Maruyama to leave.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 3