Japan's deputy transport minister to quit over controversial comment

TOKYO (XINHUA) - Ichiro Tsukada, Japan's State Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, will step down from his post, he said on Friday (April 5), for comments made that he upgraded a road construction project as a favour.

The project to upgrade the road in south-western Japan, according to a remark made by Mr Tsukada, was carried out as a favour to Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Mr Tsukada said the road project could link Mr Abe's constituency of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi prefecture and Kitakyushu in Fukuoka prefecture, the constituency of Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso.

The road has been dubbed the "Abe-Aso Road". Mr Tsukada said that the project to upgrade the road was as an unrequested favour to Mr Abe and Mr Aso, as the two senior politicians cannot talk about matters relating to their own constituencies.

"I raised the level of the research to one directly managed by the government. I took the intentions of Abe and Aso into consideration," Mr Tsukada said in a speech in Kitakyushu on April 1.

Mr Tsukada suggested that he had "guessed" what Mr Abe and Mr Aso were thinking and acted based on that.

Mr Abe, for his part, said that Mr Tsukada's remarks do not represent the facts.

Mr Tsukada has since retracted the comment.

"As my series of remarks were not true, I retract them and apologise," Mr Tsukada said in a statement.

He also apologised at a Lower House Cabinet Committee meeting on Wednesday for causing "big trouble". Opposition parties have been requesting Mr Tsukada step down from his position.

The fiscal 2019 budget includes the cost of a survey for the "Abe-Aso Road" projects to be carried out directly by the national government.

Executives of six opposition parties or parliamentary groups agreed at a meeting in the Diet on April 3 to demand Mr Tsukada resign as a vice-land minister.