A 72-year-old House of Representatives lawmaker on Friday attributed an 11-year-old girl’s fatal stabbing of a classmate in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, to “an increase in the number of women brimming with energy.”

“Generally speaking, this can be said of all societies, can’t it?” asked Kiichi Inoue, minister in charge of disaster prevention and contingency legislation, at a regular news conference Friday morning.

Inoue, of Hyogo Prefecture, said boys mainly committed juvenile crimes of this kind in the past.

“This is probably the first such case perpetrated by a girl, isn’t it?” he said. “I guess the differences between men and women have been narrowing in recent years.” During his own news conference later Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda indirectly criticized Inoue’s comments as being inappropriate.

“I don’t think the essence of the discussion lies in whether (the attacker) is a man or a woman,” he said when asked to comment on Inoue’s remarks.

Later in the day, Hosoda said he had cautioned Inoue over his remarks, saying that the statements were “likely to produce misunderstanding.”

Inoue “told me that he was sorry for causing trouble,” Hosoda told reporters.

Inoue later explained to reporters that the remark was meant in a general sense, not in relation to the crime.

The Sasebo girl has told police and her lawyers that she stabbed 12-year-old classmate Satomi Mitarai in the neck on Tuesday over a quarrel stemming from messages the victim posted on the bulletin board of her Web site.

Other politicians have made verbal blunders in connection with sensitive social issues in the past. A relatively recent case was that of Seiichi Ota, a former head of what was then the Management and Coordination Agency, who drew flak by saying in June last year that the gang rape of women by a group of university students was evidence of the men’s “virility.”