Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was forced Friday to fire Yasuhiro Hanashi as justice minister, who came under fire for a gaffe he made over his ministerial position, in an obvious bid to minimize damage to his already fragile government.

With approval ratings for the Cabinet plunging recently due largely to suspicious ties between his ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the controversial Unification Church, Kishida was eager to sort out the latest difficulty as soon as possible, sources close to him said.

Some LDP lawmakers, however, said Kishida's leadership has been called into question, as he was unable to swiftly replace Hanashi in fear that the move, following the resignation of another minister in late October, would take a further toll on his government.