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Ruling, opposition parties mull demanding Japan lawmaker resign over Russia war comment

TOKYO -- The ruling and opposition parties are considering submitting a motion demanding Hodaka Maruyama resign his House of Representatives seat after he suggested Japan may have to wage war to secure the return of the Russian-controlled Northern Territories.

Hodaka, 35, came under fire from both the ruling and opposition camps after he said during a stay on Kunashiri Island, one of the four disputed islets comprising the Northern Territories off Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido: "Unless we wage war, won't the issue just go nowhere?"

Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), to which Maruyama belonged, decided to expel him on May 15, and called for him to resign his seat in the lower chamber.

However, the 11 seats held by the party in the chamber fall short of the 20 necessary to initiate the resignation demand motion. Party leader Ichiro Matsui, also mayor of the western Japan city of Osaka, said that the party "will vote in favor if such a motion is submitted."

Other parties insist that Nippon Ishin should take the initiative in filing the motion. If such a resolution was submitted to the legislature, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is expected to vote for it, allowing its passage. As of now, interparty arrangements are still necessary before the motion can be tabled.

At a meeting of the lower house Committee on Rules and Administration, legislators from both the governing and opposition blocs condemned Maruyama's remark, with one member saying, "We cannot overlook his statement," and another commenting, "It is a critical problem."

Maruyama nevertheless has shown no sign he intends to vacate his Diet seat. He responded to the parties' moves by tweeting, "This is tantamount to the citadel of discourse (the Diet) tying its own hands." He even asserted that he would distribute a video refuting the move online if the motion was ever put forward. "Regardless of whether the motion is passed or not, I will serve out my term," he tweeted.

A Diet resolution urging a legislator to resign, even if passed, is not legally binding. Such a motion has been passed a total of three times over the past 20 years, but none of the target lawmakers stepped down.

(Japanese original by Masahiro Tateno and Minami Nomaguchi, Political News Department)

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