National / Politics

Rare Diet resolution passed to increase pressure on Hodaka Maruyama to quit over Russia war remarks

Kyodo

The Lower House of the Diet on Thursday passed a rare resolution urging a lawmaker to quit over his controversial remarks that alluded to Tokyo waging war with Moscow to regain control of a group of disputed islands.

The resolution by eight ruling and opposition parties against Hodaka Maruyama that was unanimously adopted at a plenary session of the House of Representatives states that he is “not qualified as a Diet member” and presses him to make a decision on his future as a Diet lawmaker.

Maruyama, 35, was expelled from the opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai shortly after he made the remarks in May during a visa-free exchange program between Japan and Russia. He has so far defied pressure from opposition party lawmakers to resign, saying his future is “up to a judgment of eligible voters to be made in an election.”

It is the first time that the Diet has adopted a resolution to press a lawmaker into resignation, according to the secretariats for both houses of the Diet. The motion is not legally binding.

On a visit to one of four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, the Lower House member, who represents a constituency in Osaka, asked the leader of a group of former Japanese residents about the recovery of the islands. “Do you think there is any alternative to war?” he said.

A drunk Maruyama also expressed an urge to go to a bar near his lodging place on the island of Kunashiri, asking, “Are those places with neon signs bars? … Are there women?” adding, “I want to go out to grope breasts.”

The resolution criticizes Maruyama for having made a series of “unthinkable remarks, including one that goes against pacifism enshrined in the Constitution.”

His words “seriously hurt national interests,” the resolution said, adding that “the authority and integrity of the Lower House was undermined.”

Maruyama’s retraction of the remarks and apologies did not dissuade six opposition parties, including Nippon Ishin, from jointly submitting a resolution urging him to quit.

In a separate draft resolution the ruling bloc of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito initially took a more measured approach, calling on Maruyama to seriously reflect on his behavior.

The ruling parties later decided to step up pressure and submitted the latest resolution that uses more severe wording, which was supported by the opposition camp.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been seeking to resolve a long-standing row over the disputed islands off Hokkaido and conclude a postwar peace treaty with Russia even though prospects appear slim for a quick breakthrough.

The two countries remain apart over the islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.

Abe told an Upper House session on Wednesday that Maruyama’s remarks “totally differ from the government’s policy that aims to seek resolution with diplomatic negotiations.”

Japan maintains the islands were illegally seized by the former Soviet Union following Tokyo’s surrender at the end of World War II while Russia claims the seizure was a legitimate outcome of the war.