TOKYO, SEPT. 28 -- The top legal officer in Japan's cabinet has formally apologized for suggesting that blacks "ruin the atmosphere" of U.S. neighborhoods, but still received a reprimand from the top U.S. diplomat here.

Justice Minister Seiroku Kajiyama visited the U.S. Embassy here Thursday to declare that "I retract the remarks and apologize to all those concerned." In response, U.S. Ambassador Michael Armacost criticized the "insensitivity" of Kajiyama's comment and said, "Your remarks aroused deep feelings not just among blacks, but among all Americans."

The 64-year-old Kajiyama had been justice minister all of eight days when he decided to accompany Japanese police on a raid on a popular red-light district in Tokyo's Shinjuku neighborhood. At a news conference afterward, he said prostitutes "ruin the atmosphere" of places like Shinjuku. Without prompting, he went on to say, "It's like in America when neighborhoods become mixed because blacks move in, and whites are forced out."

Kajiyama was formally censured by his fellow cabinet members earlier this week, but there's no indication he will resign.

In 1986, then-Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said that the presence of blacks and Hispanics in the U.S. population tends to lower the overall intelligence rate. He, too, apologized after complaints from the United States.