New LDP report falls short on ties with Unification Church
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party released more details on damaging revelations of ties between its lawmakers and the Unification Church that have called the party’s integrity into question, given the extent of their involvement and the prominent individuals named to date.
But it appeared doubtful the move would placate opposition forces who are expected to go on the attack against the government when an extraordinary Diet session is scheduled to convene on Oct. 3.
The issue of ties between LDP lawmakers and the organization formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification has dominated news coverage since the July 8 slaying of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The alleged gunman said he targeted Abe because of his association with the religious group, explaining that he grew up in dire poverty as a result of his mother donating a huge sum of money to the religious organization.
The LDP on Sept. 8 released a preliminary summary on the outcome of reports submitted by lawmakers about their ties to the Unification Church. But since then, media reports have linked other lawmakers, including Cabinet ministers, to organizations affiliated with the church.
The LDP on Sept. 30 revealed that 12 lawmakers had submitted additional reports and one was found to have had ties with the Unification Church. But no specific explanation was given about the nature of those ties.
The LDP also revealed the names of 121 lawmakers in its initial report because they were found to have had exceptional closeness to the church, such as receiving support during elections.
On Sept. 30, the names of four additional lawmakers were released: Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara; Masahiro Imamura, a former reconstruction minister; Taku Ishii, a Lower House member; and Natsumi Higa, an Upper House member.
All four have admitted to giving speeches at gatherings hosted by organizations associated with the Unification Church, which has long been under scrutiny over unsavory sales practices aimed at bilking church followers and others of their savings.
Three LDP lawmakers whose names were revealed on Sept. 8 were found to have also attended events hosted by the Unification Church. The three are Takuya Hirai, the former Digital Agency minister; Tomohiro Yamamoto, a former senior vice defense minister; and Kiyoshi Ejima, an Upper House member.
Unlike the first report, no news conference was held on Sept. 30 to announce the additional results.
“In many cases, the opposition parties have made reports in writing about additional revelations” LDP Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters Sept. 30. “We released our report because it was the end of the month and a certain number of additional reports had been received.”
But the reliability of the latest report remains in question since the name of Daishiro Yamagiwa, the state minister in charge of economic revitalization, was not mentioned even though he admitted on Sept. 20 to have attended an event sponsored by the Unification Church in 2018.
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