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Japanese minister quits over 'joke'

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Japanese justice minister Minoru Yanagida announces his resignation (AP)

Japan’s justice minister has resigned after joking that his job was so easy he only ever needed one of two answers to questions from MPs.

Minoru Yanagida said his stock replies were: “I do not comment on specific cases,” and “We are dealing with the matter appropriately based on law and evidence.”

MPs immediately demanded he step down from his post.

“It is my fault that I made those imprudent and joking comments, and I must apologise deeply,” Mr Yanagida said, announcing his resignation.

He said he decided to step down after meeting Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

The main opposition party had been preparing a censure motion against him and threatening to boycott parliamentary deliberations on the stimulus budget if he didn’t quit.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku will take over as justice minister until a new candidate is found.

“Our Cabinet will buckle down and sincerely respond to parliamentary affairs so that we will not repeat a similar problem,” he said.

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