Japan’s transport minister resigned today after a string of gaffes, dealing a major blow to Prime Minister Taro Aso who took office less than a week ago, reports said.
The resignation of Nariaki Nakayama marked an embarrassing and rocky start for Mr Aso, who took office on Wednesday.
Public broadcaster NHK showed Mr Aso looking sombre as he entered the prime minister’s office for a Cabinet meeting today.
Mr Aso’s public support is the lowest of any newly appointed prime minister in eight years. The latest newspaper polls indicate his approval rating is just below 50%.
Mr Nakayama handed his resignation to Mr Aso and left the prime minister’s office without attending the Cabinet meeting, NHK said.
Mr Nakayama yesterday called Japan’s largest teachers’ union “a cancer,” the Asahi and Yomiuri newspapers said.
He made the remark to reporters following a meeting with his supporters at which he said the union should be demolished. The union demanded an apology and a retraction of his comments.
Last week he said Japan is “ethnically homogenous,” drawing criticism from the Ainu, the indigenous people of northern Japan.
Japan’s opposition, the Democratic Party of Japan, criticised Mr Nakayama’s comments and yesterday said Mr Aso should take responsibility for appointing Mr Nakayama as a minister.