• Kyodo

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The new minister for regional revitalization has said he won’t resign over reports that he tried to obstruct an investigation by the securities watchdog.

Kozo Yamamoto, 68, who took the post a month ago, denied magazine reports that he exerted pressure on the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission during an insider trading case in 2012 that involved an acquaintance.

“I didn’t mean to put pressure on the investigation at all,” Yamamoto, an economic adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said in a statement Thursday.

The statement added that he regretted acting in a way that misled the public.

Separately, Yamamoto told reporters he will stay on as minister because that would be the “natural” thing to do.

“I’ll work hard and try to dispel the public criticism,” he told them.

The allegations appeared in the weekly Shukan Shincho and Shukan Bunshun magazines, published Thursday.

Diet records show Yamamoto raised the issue in a Lower House subcommittee meeting in March 2012.

“I wonder if we need the (Securities and Exchange) Surveillance Commission, given that only it can carry out this kind of investigation,” the records show him saying.

The magazines said Yamamoto’s acquaintance was a former executive officer at a major brokerage who was convicted of leaking information about tender offers.

The securities watchdog investigated the individual and others in connection with the case in September 2011.

The magazines said Yamamoto attempted to put pressure on the SESC over the case.

He retorted: “I was just interested in how the investigation was being conducted. I was not asked by the acquaintance to raise the question in the Diet.”

Yamamoto is serving his seventh term as a Lower House member. He secured his first ministerial post in a Cabinet reshuffle on Aug. 3.

He is considered one of the key architects of Abe’s Abenomics policy mix, aimed at lifting Japan out of chronic deflation.

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