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Ja­pa­nese Trade Min­is­ter Isshu Su­gawara re­signed on Fri­day, fol­low­ing ac­cu­sa­tions of elec­tion law vi­o­la­tions just a month af­ter tak­ing up the key post charged with han­dling a trade dis­pute with neigh­bor­ing South Korea.

TOKYO (AP) — Ja­pan’s trade min­is­ter re­signed Fri­day a month into his job in a scan­dal over con­do­lence money, ex­pen­sive melons and other gifts al­legedly of­fered to elec­tion sup­port­ers.

Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe was quick to re­move a po­ten­tial dam­age to his Cabi­net. He ac­cepted Isshu Su­gawara’s of­fer to re­sign and re­placed him with Hiroshi Ka­jiyama, for­merly the min­is­ter in charge of lo­cal re­vi­tal­iza­tion and reg­u­la­tory re­form.

“I bear re­spon­si­bil­ity for his ap­point­ment and I apol­o­gize to the peo­ple for caus­ing a sit­u­a­tion like this,” Abe told re­porters. But he said he had to move on be­cause “not even a sec­ond of stand­still or de­lay is al­lowed” in the im­por­tant pol­icy area.

Su­gawara, 57, ten­dered his res­ig­na­tion just be­fore he was to face ques­tions from op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers about the vote buy­ing al­le­ga­tions later Fri­day, a day af­ter more tabloid re­ports about his scan­dal came out.

Su­gawara said he did not want to hold up im­por­tant dis­cus­sions in Par­lia­ment. The sched­uled com­mit­tee meet­ing Fri­day was can­celed.

His res­ig­na­tion comes just weeks af­ter Abe added him to the Cabi­net in a reshuf­fling prompted by the July elec­tion, in which his rul­ing coali­tion se­cured a com­fort­able ma­jor­ity.

Su­gawara has been grilled in Par­lia­ment re­cently af­ter a mag­a­zine re­ported ear­lier that he had paid con­do­lence money and sent ex­pen­sive melons, crab and other gifts to his elec­tion dis­trict sup­port­ers in 2006-2007. Such pay­ments are con­sid­ered do­na­tions that are against Ja­pa­nese elec­tions law.

An­other mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle Thurs­day pro­vided more de­tails of al­leged give­aways in his elec­tion dis­trict of Ner­ima in Tokyo, which ap­par­ently trig­gered his de­ci­sion to of­fer his res­ig­na­tion.

Op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers said they will not let him off the hook with­out ex­pla­na­tion.


Ja­pan’s Trade Min­is­ter Isshu Su­gawara speaks to the me­dia at the par­lia­ment in Tokyo, Fri­day.

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