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Nazi remark minister: I won't quit

Japan's outspoken finance minister has refused to resign or apologise over remarks suggesting the country should follow the Nazi example of how to change its constitution stealthily and without public debate.

Taro Aso "retracted" the comments, following protests by neighbouring countries and human rights activists, but today refused to go further.

"I have no intention to step down" as cabinet minister or MP, Mr Aso, who is also deputy prime minister, told reporters. The government also said it was not seeking Mr Aso's resignation, demanded by some opposition members.

Mr Aso, who is known for intemperate remarks, sparked outrage for saying Japan should learn from how the Nazi party stealthily changed Germany's pre-war constitution before anyone realised it.

He also suggested that Japanese politicians should make visit Tokyo's Yasukuni war shrine, which commemorates the country's 2.3 million war dead, including 14 leaders convicted of war crimes, quietly to avoid controversy. Such visits currently take place amid wide publicity and are a sore point for south-east Asian nations which suffered under Japanese occupation during the Second World War.

Mr Aso said he was misunderstood and meant only to say that loud debate over whether Japan should change its post-war constitution and other issues was not helpful. In retracting his comments, he said it was "very unfortunate and regrettable" that they were misinterpreted.

But he said on Friday he stood by all his other remarks in the speech made earlier this week in Tokyo to an ultra-conservative audience.

Critics of the ruling Liberal Democrats are uneasy over the party's proposals for revising the US-inspired post-war constitution, in part to allow a higher profile for Japan's military.

Japan's history of military aggression, which included colonising the Korean Peninsula before the war, and being a wartime ally with Nazi Germany, is the reason its current constitution limits the role of the military.

Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said post-war Japan had consistently supported peace and human rights. "Cabinet ministers should fully understand their role and make sure to avoid misleading remarks," he said, but added that Mr Aso had already retracted the Nazi comment and did not have to resign.

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