TOKYO — Japan's outspoken education minister was dismissed today after his remarks on Tokyo's 1910 annexation of Korea sparked a diplomatic dispute with Seoul, the government announced.
Masayuki Fujio had been in office for 49 days, which were marked by a series of controversial statements.
Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone decided to expel Fujio from the cabinet after the minister refused to step down voluntarily, Chief Cabinet Secretary Masaharu Gotoda said.
Seoul strongly protested to Japan today over Fujio's remarks and unilaterally postponed the first of what was to have been a series of regular meetings between the two countries' foreign ministers.
In a magazine article to be published Wednesday, Fujio said Korea was partly responsible for its annexation by Japan in 1910, as the move was based on an agreement between leaders of the two countries.
Nakasone Courts Seoul
Tokyo's colonial rule of Korea ended with Japan's defeat in World War II in 1945.
Since taking over as prime minister nearly four years ago, Nakasone has assiduously courted Seoul in an effort to cement relationships between his country and the growing economic power of South Korea.
Fujio is no stranger to controversy and has been a thorn in Nakasone's side since being appointed to the Cabinet.
Most recently, he has criticized the prime minister for bowing to foreign pressure and deciding not to visit the Yasukuni Shrine for Japanese war dead this year. Seoul and Peking accused Nakasone of honoring war criminals when he paid an official visit to the shrine last year.
Fujio also created controversy by questioning the right of the United States to sit in judgment on Japan after World War II and by defending Japanese history textbooks against charges that they whitewashed Tokyo's role in the war.