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Defense Minister Inada clings to post after campaign speech gaffe

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada is pictured in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward on June 30, 2017. (Mainichi)

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada denied on June 30 that she has any intention of stepping down from the Cabinet over her recent campaign speech gaffe.

"I'd like steadily fulfill my official duties," Inada told a news conference after a regular Cabinet meeting.

Inada has come under fire for suggesting that the Self-Defense Forces support a candidate of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the July 2 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election.

"I would like to ask for your support on behalf of the Defense Ministry and the Self-Defense Forces, as the defense minister, and on behalf of the Liberal Democratic Party," she said in a June 27 campaign speech for the candidate.

"I once again clarify that I've retracted the remark and apologize," she told the news conference. It was the first time for her to publicly mention the matter since she retracted her remark during talks with reporters at the Diet on June 27.

Critics have pointed out that Inada's remark constitutes a violation of the Public Offices Election Act. On this point, the defense minister told reporters at the news conference, "Abiding by the law is fundamental. I didn't intend to use my position for an election campaign."

She then said, "It's true I meant that I'm grateful to the Defense Ministry and the SDF as defense minister. I've retracted the remark because it could cause misunderstanding."

Opposition parties are demanding that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dismiss Inada from his Cabinet, but the prime minister has no intention of complying with the demand.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga reiterated at a June 30 news conference that he hopes to retain Inada.

"I'd like her to fulfill her accountability and continue to sincerely perform her duties," Suga said, adding that Inada did not provide any explanation of the matter at the Cabinet meeting or other meetings of Cabinet ministers concerned with specific policy issues on June 30.

A senior official of the prime minister's office commented, "She can't provide any further explanations."

However, there are growing calls even from within the ruling coalition for Abe to replace Inada when he reshuffles his Cabinet.

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