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Last Updated: Friday, 4 June, 2004, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
Japan's gaffe-prone politicians
Former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori
Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori frequently put his foot in his mouth

Japan's ruling coalition is rueing the latest gaffe by one of its ministers.

Kiichi Inoue, minister for disaster management, suggested that the murder of a classmate by an 11-year-old schoolgirl indicated a sign of women's progress.

"Men have committed thoughtless, harsh acts but I think this is the first for a girl," Mr Inoue told reporters. "Recently the difference between men and women is shrinking." He said "vigorous" women were increasing in society.

He joins a long list of Japanese politicians who have succeeded in inflaming a painful incident by making inappropriate comments.

Gang rape shows the people who do it are still vigorous, and that is OK
Seiichi Ota

Last July, one of Mr Inoue's predecessor's drew fire when commenting on an equally shocking child murder.

Yoshitada Konoike said the parents of a boy suspected of killing a small child should be beheaded as a warning to parents who do not control their children effectively.

"The parents (of the 12-year-old boy) should be pulled through the streets and their heads should be chopped off," Mr Konoike told a news conference.

Later that week, senior politician Takami Eto sparked complaints from China after suggesting that the Nanking massacre during World War II was a "big lie".

China says that 300,000 Chinese died at the hands of Japanese troops in Nanking, but some Japanese nationalists contest whether the massacre happened at all.

In the same month, two politicians sparked fury among female legislators by appearing to condone rape.

Seiichi Ota, a lawmaker with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said at a debate on Japan's declining birth rate that at least gang rapists had a healthy appetite for sex.

Then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, commenting on Mr Ota's remarks, suggested women who are raped are "asking for it" by the way they dress.

Possibly the most gaffe-prone of all Japan's politicians, former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, also drew fire around the same time for suggesting childless women should be denied welfare payments in old age.

They say 40% of the voters are still undecided. Those people who aren't interested should just stay in bed
Yoshiro Mori
Mr Mori was infamous for such impolitic remarks during his 2000-2001 leadership.

When news broke that a ship carrying high school students had sunk after colliding with a US submarine in February 2001, Mr Mori continued with his game of golf.

He became his own worst enemy, urging voters wavering before the 2000 election, to stay in bed. His Liberal Democratic Party went on to lose its simple majority in the lower house.

Before he even became prime minister, he managed to insult Aids sufferers, Americans, and residents of the western port city of Osaka, which he described as "a spittoon".

When there was a Y2K problem, the Japanese bought water and noodles. Americans bought pistols and guns
Yoshiro Mori
Mr Mori's loose tongue led to pressure on him to resign, which he eventually did in April 2001.

Many of the slips made by Japan's politicians have centred on the country's conduct during World War II.

One of Mr Mori's most damaging comments, made within weeks of him taking office, was his description of Japan as a "divine country" centred on the emperor.

For a nation keen to shake off the militaristic image of its past, the remark was especially insensitive.

Many of [the comfort women] went for the money
Kajiyama Seiroku
Hosei Norota, senior lawmaker and former Defence Minister, sparked controversy in 2001, when he said his country was not to blame for its entry into the war, and had been forced into action by the US.

"Faced with oil and other embargoes from other countries, Japan had no choice but to venture out southward to secure natural resources. In other words, Japan had fallen prey to a scheme of the US," Mr Norota said.

In the same year, then Chief Cabinet Secretary Kajiyama Seiroku said Korean women forced into sexual servitude by Japan during World War II were no different from Japanese prostitutes who worked in government brothels for pay.

"Many of [the comfort women] went for the money," Mr Seiroku said during a Japan-Korea summit meeting.

Japan in shock at school murder
02 Jun 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Boy held over Japan child murder
09 Jul 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan rape victims 'asking for it'
03 Jul 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Fury over Japan rape gaffe
27 Jun 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Mori: Gaffe-prone leader
14 Feb 01 |  Asia-Pacific

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