TOKYO Kyodo -- At least four members of the Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida's new cabinet were revealed Wednesday to have had relations with the Unification Church despite the reshuffling of links to the controversial religious group amid plummeting public support.
The cabinet members told the press that the revamp has replaced seven ministers who have had links with the church, including former defense minister Nobuo Kishi, the younger brother of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was fatally shot last month.
Koichi Hagiuda was moved to the pivotal post of the LDP policy chief after Kishida said all new Cabinet members and Liberal Democratic Party executives should check and review their ties with the contentious group.
Terada told reporters he did not attend due to scheduling issues and that he had never received any donations or campaign support from the group.
Akihiro Nishimura, the new environment minister, said he had not heard that the church was involved in an event he had previously attended, thinking it was a conservative forum. Both Katsunobu Kato, who returned to his former post as health minister, and Daishiro Yamagiwa, who retained his post as economic revitalization minister, admitted to having previously paid membership fees to organizations affiliated with the church.
The controversy over the church, now formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, began after Abe's killer told investigators that his mother's donations to the religious group had ruined their family's fortunes and he held a grudge against it.
Kenta Izumi, the leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, criticized the reshuffling, calling the new Cabinet lineup a cover-up for the Unification Church controversy.
Despite the LDP saying it would conduct an impartial review, they have not clarified the links between many lawmakers and the church, which does not inspire public trust, Izumi said.
Tomihiro Tanaka, head of the church's Japan branch, said at a press conference Wednesday that he would find it extremely regrettable if involvement with our organization was the criteria for cabinet reshuffling.