The opposition Democratic Party of Japan demanded Friday that Masahiro Morioka resign as parliamentary secretary for health, labor and welfare for saying that Class-A war criminals are no longer regarded as criminals in Japan.
DPJ President Katsuya Okada was quoted by Kyodo News as saying that "there is simply no justification for the remarks."
Morioka is a member of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
"It is only natural for us to demand his resignation, but before that the government should settle the issue as the parliamentary secretary is a government official and it is totally unforgivable for the prime minister to make comments as if he is not concerned," Okada was quoted.
Kyodo also quoted Koizumi as saying the same day "I don't think it appropriate to take up the remarks seriously as he must have expressed his views as a House of Representatives member."
Meanwhile, Japanese Communist Party Chairman Kazuo Shii said that the remarks are an outright glorification of the war of aggression and are unforgivable. The government should fire Morioka immediately or he should tender his resignation.
Social Democratic Party Secretary General Seiji Mataichi said Friday at a press conference that "Morioka apparently has an erroneous historical perception. The prime minister is responsible because his wrong political stances and foreign policy have spread among the government and the members of the ruling parties to a great extent."
Earlier in the day, DPJ Parliament Affairs Committee Chairman Yoshio Hachiro said Morioka's remarks "warrant his resignation because they are totally inconsistent with the Cabinet's policy."
"The remarks are exactly in line with Koizumi's self-centered behavior that indicates he does not know the basics of diplomacy," the opposition lawmaker said.
Morioka's remarks also drew criticism from ruling coalition members.
Junji Higashi, Diet Affairs Committee chairman of the New Komeito party, the LDP's junior coalition partner, said, "The remarks were careless and inappropriate as they came at a time when we are making efforts to find a breakthrough in the cooling relations between Japan and China."
China, South Korea and other Asian nations that were victims of Japan's wartime aggression atrocities have strongly protested and criticized Koizumi's repeated visits to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrined 14 Class-A war criminals along with Japan's war dead.
(Xinhua News Agency May 28, 2005)