TOKYO: Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will release an updated list of members who have had connections with the controversial Unification Church, its secretary-general Toshimitsu Motegi said on Tuesday.
Links between the church and LDP have been in focus after former premier Shinzo Abe was shot during an election rally. The suspected killer blamed him for supporting the church, which he said had bankrupted his mother. The church has declined to comment on her donations and has also said it no longer accepts donations that cause financial hardship.
The LDP this month said that 179 out of 379 members it surveyed were found to have interacted with the church. In a cabinet reshuffle last month, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida removed seven ministers who had disclosed connections to the church in an attempt to reverse a slide in his approval ratings.
However on Tuesday, Economy Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa admitted in a news conference he had attended a Unification Church-sponsored event in 2018 that he had not previously reported to the party.
Asked whether he would consider stepping down as minister, Yamagiwa said he would take responsibility by staying on as minister and carrying out the administration's economic stimulus measures.
"This is the work I need to fulfill," he added.
Amid increasing public scrutiny into the party's relationship with the church, the cabinet's approval rating has plunged to around 30 per cent in recent polls compared with a peak of around 60 per cent earlier this year. The low ratings are close to what political analysts see as a danger level beyond which Japanese prime ministers may find it difficult to carry out their agenda.
A survey conducted by Jiji news agency last week found nearly two-thirds of respondents disapproved of Kishida's handling of the church matter.