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Editorial: Japan PM too slow to address problems with departing minister

Economic Revitalization Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa has resigned following repeated criticism over his stance of amending his explanations each time new information regarding his contact with the Unification Church came to light.

    It is only natural for Yamagiwa to step down. His resignation was late in coming, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida bears a heavy responsibility for continually covering for the minister.

    Yamagiwa repeatedly responded to the issue in an insincere manner, and it is clear that he lacked the qualifications to serve as a Cabinet minister. In the most recent poll conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun, 71% of respondents took the view that Yamagiwa should step down.

    In August, when the prime minister was shuffling his Cabinet, he had instructed Cabinet candidates to clarify their relationships with the Unification Church, now formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. But it was only after Yamagiwa's reappointment was confirmed that he acknowledged his connections with the religious group.

    Yamagiwa should have been removed from office at that point. But instead, the prime minister reiterated that he would have Yamagiwa further fulfill his accountability. Even on Oct. 24 in the Diet he said that he had "absolutely no" intention of replacing the minister.

    The series of developments brought to light the prime minister's lack of judgement ability and his poor crisis management.

    Yamagiwa's explanations were incoherent. When it was reported that he took part in a Unification Church-related event in Nepal, he said, "I have a memory of going there, but I don't remember attending the meeting."

    Furthermore, regarding his meeting with the head of the Unification Church, he said, "The media pointed it out to me, and when I saw the photo, it matched my memory of having met the person."

    Then last week in the Diet, Yamagiwa said, "There's a possibility that new facts could come out," as if to take a so-what attitude. And yesterday, he turned on the opposition parties, saying "I don't remember what I don't think is important," showing absolutely no sign of remorse.

    It is not just the Unification Church issue that brings Yamagiwa's qualifications into question. During a stump speech ahead of the House of Councillors election in July, he stated, "We in the government do not listen to anything from the opposition parties." For someone holding an important office in the government, which is serving the entire nation, we can only say he lacks common sense.

    Yamagiwa had been in charge of handling Japan's response to the coronavirus and coordinating the Kishida administration's signature "new capitalization," policy. He was also in charge of formulating economic measures to be decided this week. If he had continued as a Cabinet minister, even the credibility of the government's policies would have been lost.

    There is a possibility that the issue could bring further repercussions affecting the advancement of other senior officials in the Kishida administration whose contact with the Unification Church has been uncovered. If the administration does not take responsibility, then it will not be able to dispel public distrust.

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