Before joining the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Foreign Minister Taro Kono was regarded as a reform-minded, maverick politician who often rebelled against top government officials.

But that image was tarnished during a news conference Tuesday when he ignored a question from a reporter four times in a row, bluntly repeating only one phrase: "Next question, please."

The exchange, which was later aired repeatedly by news programs on national TV stations, started when a reporter asked Kono how he would respond to a comment by his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, in which Lavrov had reportedly said Japan should accept the consequences of World War II if it wants to conclude a postwar peace treaty with Russia.