Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday appointed former health minister Shigeyuki Goto as economic revitalization minister to replace Daishiro Yamagiwa who resigned over his ties with the controversial religious sect, Unification Church.
Goto, 66, a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker, will assume the ministerial post later in the day and will be charged with compiling a new economic package to combat surging prices and lead debates on the funding of a supplementary budget, reports Xinhua news agency.
Kishida said Goto, a seventh-term lower house member who joined the Finance Ministry in 1980, was appointed on the back of his experience in politics and his skills as a communicator.
For his part, Goto, who was named health minister in October last year when Kishida formed his Cabinet, said he will work steadily to tackle rising prices as well as to respond to the yen’s weakening which is further inflating costs.
Yamagiwa’s resignation a day earlier marked the first for a Cabinet member under Kishida.
He had been under increasing pressure from the public and opposition parties to step down for his links to the controversial sect.
On numerous occasions Yamagiwa denied his connections to the organisation, claiming he did not remember certain meetings, including with the church’s leader.
An internal probe by the LDP in September found that around half of its lawmakers had some kind of connection to the Unification Church, formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, with the ruling party having ordered all ties to be severed a month earlier.
Amid slumping support for his Cabinet, Kishida earlier this month instructed his culture minister Keiko Nagaoka to launch an investigation into the contentious church based on “the right to ask questions” under the Religious Corporations Act.
The probe will mark the first time the government here has exercised the right and an expert panel will convene on Tuesday to discuss a number of issues pertaining to “the right to ask questions”.
The Unification Church is also known to have coerced followers into making exorbitant donations, leaving some of them in financial ruin.
Tetsuya Yamagami, who fatally shot former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on July 8, had also blamed the organisation for his family’s financial downfall.