slot island-Japan PM Kishida says ruling party to cut ties with Unification Church

Japan's prime minister on Wednesday said members of his ruling party will have to cut ties with the Unification Church, which has faced renewed scrutiny following ex-premier Shinzo Abe's assassination.

Abe's alleged assassin resented the church over his mother's involvement with and hefty donations to the organization, and targeted the former prime minister believing he was linked to the sect.

In the wake of his murder, revelations of links between the church and a raft of politicians have caused controversy.

The Unification Church has condemned Abe's murder and denied accusations of coercive fundraising tactics among its members, but Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's government has seen its approval ratings drop in recent weeks as more details have emerged.

"We will make it the party's policy that our lawmakers sincerely reflect on their past, abandon cosy relationships and cut off ties with the organization in question," Kishida told reporters on Wednesday.

"Politicians must be cautious about having relationships with organizations that society recognizes as problematic," he said, promising an investigation into ties between members of his party and the church.

Politicians including Abe's brother and former defense minister Nobuo Kishi have acknowledged receiving help from church members during elections.

The church says political support is decided by individual members without official involvement, but experts say it has long cultivated ties with powerful figures internationally.

There has also been a fresh examination of allegations the church engages in "spiritual sales," pressuring members to buy high-priced items to raise funds.

The church denies engaging in the practice, but Kishida said the government would "make an all-out effort" to assist victims of such sales.

Abe was not a member of the church but had addressed an affiliated group, as have various prominent international businesspeople and politicians, including former US president Donald Trump.

Abe was shot in July in the western Nara region while on the campaign trail, and the government is planning a September 27 state funeral expected to be 

attended by many current and former heads of state.

The plan is controversial in Japan, however, with some questioning if public ­money should be spent on an event celebrating a politician.

Kishida defended the state funeral on Wednesday and said he would submit to questioning over the issue during a televised session of parliament.


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