THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
August 11, 2022 at 14:38 JST
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at an Aug. 10 news conference after he reshuffled his Cabinet. (Pool)
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida touted his reshuffled Cabinet as designed to help Japan overcome a host of serious challenges, but the government’s top priority could be dealing with an issue dogging the ruling party.
“The most important thing is to review the relations held with (the Unification Church),” a high-ranking official of the prime minister’s office said.
Kishida’s reshuffle on Aug. 10 did remove a number of Cabinet members with ties to the Unification Church, formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.
But revelations have already emerged about similar ties involving new appointees to the Cabinet, underscoring the long and deep connection between the LDP and the Unification Church.
Criticism over such relations emerged after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot and killed on July 8 while giving a campaign speech in Nara.
The suspected gunman, Tetsuya Yamagami, told police that his family went bankrupt because his mother donated so much money to the Unification Church. He reportedly said he targeted Abe because of his close ties to the group.
As complaints and criticism re-emerged about the Unification Church’s donation-collection methods, Kishida has tried to distance the ruling party from the group.
He dropped from his new administration seven members of his first Cabinet who admitted to having relations with the Unification Church.
But soon after the reshuffled Cabinet was in place, at least six members acknowledged various ties to the Unification Church.
Daishiro Yamagiwa, the state minister for economic revitalization, had long dodged questions about whether he had ties to the Unification Church. But at his Aug. 10 news conference, he acknowledged for the first time that he attended an event organized by a group affiliated with the Unification Church.
Minoru Terada admitted at his news conference the same day that he made a donation to an organization linked to the Unification Church.
“I will ensure that there are no future ties with any organization that has problems with society,” Terada said.
Sanae Takaichi, the state minister in charge of economic security, acknowledged that a monthly magazine published 20 years ago by an organization affiliated with the Unification Church ran an interview with her.
Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi also said he was interviewed in 2012 by reporters with the Sekai Nippo, a news daily affiliated with the Unification Church.
Opposition lawmakers are now arguing that the Kishida administration has failed to uncover all relations between LDP lawmakers and the Unification Church.
“A Cabinet could not have been put together if only lawmakers with no ties to the church were considered,” Akira Koike of the Japanese Communist Party said. “Rather, this has shown how the LDP and the Unification Church are mired in a relationship that is difficult to escape.”
At his Aug. 6 news conference, Kishida said prospective Cabinet members, current members as well as senior vice ministers would each be asked to look into their ties with the Unification Church and to disclose the findings.
But Kishida’s instructions were rather ambiguous.
A source in the prime minister’s office said: “We will not ask that reports be submitted to the prime minister. It is more important that Cabinet ministers themselves explain (any ties to the group) to the general public.”
At his Aug. 10 news conference, Kishida was asked if the LDP would conduct its own investigation into relations between party lawmakers and the group and release the results.
The prime minister only said it would be up to individual lawmakers to check into their ties and review such relations based on the results of the study.
His words prompted further criticism from opposition parties.
Kenta Izumi, head of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said the Cabinet reshuffle did nothing to clear up points concerning LDP relations with the Unification Church.
Mizuho Fukushima of the Social Democratic Party attacked Kishida’s plan to hold a state funeral for Abe. She said no state funeral should be held for a politician who had among the closest ties with the Unification Church.
(This article was compiled from reports by Keishi Nishimura and Kazuki Uechi.)
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