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Japan PM to dismiss secretary for discriminatory remarks against sexual minorities

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, listening to reporters, and his executive secretary Masayoshi Arai are seen at the prime minister's office in Tokyo on Feb. 3, 2023. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on the morning of Feb. 4 that he plans to dismiss a secretary who said the night before that he hated to see sexual minorities and "wouldn't even like to live next door to them."

    Masayoshi Arai, a bureaucrat from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) who serves as an executive secretary to the prime minister, made the remarks in front of reporters at the prime minister's office when commenting on sexual minorities and same-sex marriage. Although the comments were made in an "off-the-record" interview, Kishida announced to reporters on the following morning that he plans to remove Arai from his post.

    Regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage, Kishida said at the House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on Feb. 1, "It is an issue that will change society." In response to Kishida's comment, Arai said on Feb. 3, "The impact on society is large. It's negative. The secretary's office is united against it." He added, "I respect human rights and values, but if same-sex marriage is approved, there will be people who will abandon the country."

    Arai followed up in an interview with reporters again late at the same night at the prime minister's office, telling them on the record, "I am very sorry for the somewhat misleading expressions I made earlier. I retract them." He explained, "It was my personal opinion and not at all an opinion presented in public office, but it is not desirable to say such a thing even if it is a personal opinion." Asked about the impact on the administration, he said, "I feel a bit sorry toward the prime minister. Expressing my personal opinion has caused trouble. The prime minister himself is not saying or thinking such things." Regarding his future response, he said, "I'll be cautious and careful with every statement."

    Prime Minister Kishida responded to an interview with reporters at his official residence on the morning of Feb. 4 and revealed his plan to replace Arai, saying, "They were comments that forced me to contemplate his future course. I'll consider how to deal with him immediately."

    "The Kishida administration has said that it aims to create a sustainable, inclusive society that recognizes diversity," he added. "Secretary Arai's comments are completely incompatible with this administration's policy and are outrageous. We have no choice but to take strict action."

    Arai was appointed an executive secretary to the prime minister in October 2021, when the Kishida administration took office, from his post as director general of the commerce and information policy bureau at METI.

    (Japanese original by Keiko Takahashi, Political News Department)

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