10/26/2022, 16.36
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Kishida increasingly in difficulty as minister quits over links to Unification Church

by Guido Alberto Casanova

After weeks of controversy, Daishiro Yamagiwa resigned. A picture of him with Hak Ja Han, leader of the religious group, surfaced. The opposition is unable to profit from the situation. By the end of the year, a probe by the Ministry of Education and Culture could lead to request to dissolve the Church founded by the late Rev Sun Myung Moon.

Milan (AsiaNews) – After weeks of controversy, the Japanese Minister for Economic Revitalisation has resigned.

Under pressure for his ties to the Unification Church, Daishiro Yamagiwa is the first member of the Kishida cabinet to quit after the murder of former Prime Minister Shinto Abe.

The latter’s death last July put the spotlight on relations between the controversial religious group and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Until recently, Yamagiwa claimed he could not remember attending any gathering organised by the Unification Church.

Once confronted with photographic evidence, which has gone viral, showing him alongside Hak Ja Han, leader of the religious group founded by her husband, the late Rev Sun Myung Moon, the minister quit.

Yamagiwa's resignation comes at a critical time for the Kishida administration. The latest polls indicate a sharp drop in approval for its work, down to 30 per cent, which is the margin below which a government in Japan risks falling.

The decline in the government's popularity is directly related to the close ties between the LDP and the Unification Church, whose practices towards its members have deeply affected public opinion.

After his resignation on Monday, Yamagiwa expressed regrets for causing trouble for the government.

“I sincerely apologise if by attending an event I provided a positive endorsement of the organisation,” he said. “I will be careful about my future activities so I hold no ties whatsoever with the group.”

The opposition did not miss the opportunity to criticise the government, starting with the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP) whose leader called for the minister to resign as soon as he made his first admission in early October.

“There are rising voices calling for Yamagiwa to resign for making excuses about meeting a top leader of the Unification Church but hiding it until it came to light,” said CDP leader Kenta Izumi.

In recent months, Kishida has made numerous missteps, not the least appointing his son as a personal aide and holding a state funeral for Shinto Abe. Revelations about LDP-Unification Church connection have made matters worse.

Yet, while Yamagiwa's resignation might be a victory for the opposition, it is unlikely to weaken the government. In fact, the opposition remains divided and unable to find a common strategy to defeat the Liberal Democrats.

What is more, the next election is scheduled for 2025, so, for now, the ruling party is probably not too concerned about waning support.

Within the LDP, many are betting that the scandal over the ties with the Unification Church will eventually fade away –  so Prime Minister Kishida can expect to keep his job.

Meanwhile, the probe that might lead to the dissolution of the religious group got underway yesterday with the Ministry of Education and Culture launching an investigation that might end up in the courts with a request by the end of the year to dissolve the organisation.

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