Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara remained unrepentant Thursday about his remark that Deputy Foreign Minister Hitoshi Tanaka “deserved” the bomb that was placed in his garage, saying the act reflects public anger toward the bureaucrat’s stance on North Korea.

“I am not saying that a man should be killed, but I am saying there is a reason that he faced such an incident,” Ishihara said outside Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo while stumping for Shizuka Kamei, one of the candidates in the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election.

Tanaka is the key government official for negotiations and policymaking on North Korea. His secretive approach and emphasis on dialogue with Pyongyang has often been criticized as being too soft.

Despite a barrage of criticism that his earlier remark condones acts of terrorism, Ishihara ramped up his attack on Tanaka.

When compiling the record of talks between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush in May on how the two countries should deal with North Korea, according to Ishihara, Tanaka wanted to strike from the document any mention of pressuring the reclusive state.

“He has been lying to the people,” Ishihara said. “People are angry and that’s why the (bomb) incident occurred.

“He deserves it,” the governor said again, drawing applause from his audience.

Koizumi meanwhile strongly criticized Ishihara’s remark, calling the outburst “extremely inappropriate” during Thursday’s open debate session for the LDP election at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo.

“Mr. Tanaka is one of the senior Foreign Ministry diplomats I trust,” Koizumi said. Asked if Tanaka is blocking his efforts to put pressure on Pyongyang, the prime minister said: “Not at all. He is not weak toward North Korea.”

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