Japanese Cabinet Minister Resigns

The Associated Press
Wednesday, December 27, 2006; 11:33 PM

TOKYO -- Japan's prime minister on Thursday replaced a Cabinet minister who resigned over a political funds scandal _ the latest embarrassment for the troubled administration.

Genichiro Sata resigned Wednesday evening as minister for administrative reforms after admitting that a political support group had engaged in fraudulent accounting. It was the second high-profile government resignation in a week.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe chose Yoshimi Watanabe, a Cabinet vice-minister, to replace Sata.

"I was asked to work hard for the public," Watanabe told reporters Thursday. "I think that firmly carrying out the reforms will lead to recovering public trust."

The scandal broke earlier this week when local media reported that group that helped get Sata elected to Parliament spent $656,600 in maintenance expenses for an office that did not exist.

Sata acknowledged Wednesday that some of the group's expenses were actually incurred by other organizations. He had earlier denied any knowledge of fraudulent accounting, saying he was surprised by the allegations.

A series of scandals have sent Abe's approval ratings plunging since he took office in September. Recent media polls have shown that support for Abe's government has fallen to about 50 percent from almost 70 percent three months ago.

Last week, the head the government's tax panel, Masaaki Homma, resigned amid an outcry over his use of a plush government apartment to house his mistress.

© 2006 The Associated Press