Four opposition parties agreed Tuesday to form a united front and submit a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori’s Cabinet in the near future.

The move came as criticism peaked over Mori’s remark last week that Japan is “a divine nation centering on the Emperor,” a sentiment some compared to the nationalist fervor seen before and during World War II.

Leaders of the Democratic Party of Japan, Japanese Communist Party, Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party met in the Diet building and confirmed their intent to seek Mori’s resignation over the comment.

The opposition parties claim the remark runs counter to the principle of separation of church and state as spelled out in the Constitution. For many, the words were also a disturbing echo of Japan’s militaristic past, when Japanese troops conquered Asian countries in the name of the emperor.

Earlier in the day, the secretaries general of the four parties reached an agreement to submit the motion to the Diet, paving the way for the final decision to be made by the party chiefs. They are still considering the timing.

They also agreed to demand that a one-on-one debate be held between the heads of the ruling and opposition parties, which was supposed to be a weekly event this session.

Mori apologized before the Diet last Wednesday for having incited criticism with his remark but refused to retract the comment.

Since his apology, criticism has continued to grow. The latest opinion polls have shown a sharp decline in public support for Mori’s administration.

The Mainichi Shimbun reported that 54 percent of those surveyed over the weekend said they do not back the Cabinet, up 30 percent from the survey conducted in April.

The disapproval rating for the Cabinet stood at 54.6 percent, up 18.5 points from April, according to a survey conducted over the weekend by the Yomiuri Shimbun.

The opposition also plans to probe into the questionable way in which Aoki was named acting prime minister after Keizo Obuchi lapsed into a coma in early April.

In addition, they intend to look into an alleged payoff by Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa when he was prime minister in 1991.

Kishiro Nakamura, a politician convicted of accepting bribes, said in his appeal that he received 3 million yen from Miyazawa but was not explicitly told what it was for.

Nakamura, 51, was found guilty of accepting 10 million yen in bribes to stop a Fair Trade Commission investigation into a bid-rigging case in 1992.

Last week, Miyazawa said he does not remember giving cash to Nakamura.