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Japan's justice minister quits over past Yakuza gang links

Japan's new justice minister Keishu Tanaka has quit after admitting past gang links. His resignation deals another blow to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda who is under opposition pressure to call early elections.

A spokesman for the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) said Tanaka, 74, had resigned because of ill-health. He had had hospital checks for chest pains on Friday.

Tanaka's departure follows media reports that 30 years ago he helped organize the wedding of a senior member of a yakuza crime group and attended a party hosted by a gang leader.

Tanaka, whose ministry oversees the work of the courts, had apologized after disclosures by a tabloid magazine but had previously insisted that he would not step down.

Tanaka had only been brought into the cabinet at the start of the month as part of a reshuffle aimed at shoring up Noda's coalition government which has only a slim majority.

Parliament stalled

Policy-making by Noda's administration in parliament has been stalled by the opposition Liberal Democrats. At stake is a budgetary expenditure bill awaiting passage that would contain stimulus measures for the world's third-biggest economy.

In August, Noda promised to hold an election "soon" in exchange for opposition support on a plan to double sales tax as a means to plug Japan's vast debt hole, but the measure had remain unpopular among the public.

In September last year, Noda's factionally-divided DPJ lost trade minister Yoshio Hachiro over comments he made about radiation after a visit to the Fukushima region, the scene of last year's earthquake-triggered nuclear disaster.

ipj/rg (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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