The departure of Japan's defense minister on Tuesday dealt another blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, adding to the specter that the ruling coalition could lose its majority in the upcoming upper house election.
Although Fumio Kyuma offered to step down in an attempt to quell the outcry after his comments on dropping of atomic bombs on two Japanese cities by the United States during WWII, the move seems to have little effect for Abe.
His cabinet already faces record-low support after scandals involving other ministers.
During his speech on Saturday at a university, Kyuma said the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki "brought the war to its end" and was something that "could not be helped."
Although he apologized for and took back his words on the following day, the remarks, taken to justify the atomic bombing, drew fire from the public and sparked protests especially in the two bombed cities.
Japan's four major opposition parties unanimously urging Abe to dismiss Kyuma.
What put Abe on a defensive was that he defended Kyuma, arguing that it was not inappropriate for the minister to explain the US point of view.
Instead of dismissing Kyuma, Abe summoned him to the premier's official residence and reprimanded him for the reckless remarks.
In these circumstances, the opposition parties planned to hand in a non-confidence motion to the lower house and propose to the upper house a motion asking for Kyuma to be punished.
Even the New Komeito Party -- the minor partner of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party -- appeared not to understand the issue.
Victims of the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima insisted that an apology was not enough, leaving Kyuma's resignation the only option.
Abe has been plagued by a series of troubles since taking office in September. In December, administrative reform minister Genichiro Sata resigned over falsifying records of political funds.
A month later, health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa called women "birth-giving machines." In May, farm minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka committed suicide over a political funds scandal. In late May, news about the loss of 50 million unidentified pension records by the Social Insurance Agency deepened public distrust of the Abe administration.
After one blow after another, the Abe administration is weakening. Major Japanese media polls showed that support rates for Abe's cabinet were declining to about 30 percent or lower from about 70 percent in September when the prime minister came into power.
Besides pressing the prime minister to give a satisfactory explanation for Kyuma's remarks to the public, opposition leaders have directed their anger toward Abe himself, threatening to holding him accountable for appointing Kyuma to the post.
(Xinhua News Agency July 4, 2007)