Lawmaker Absent From Hearing Over 'war' Remarks

Lawmaker absent from hearing over 'war' remarks

A Japanese opposition lawmaker under fire over his remarks on four Russian-held islands claimed by Japan says he cannot attend a Lower House committee hearing on Friday, citing poor health.

Directors of the Lower House steering committee on Thursday decided to request that Hodaka Maruyama appear before them so that they can confirm facts.

Maruyama made the remarks during a trip to one of the islands with a group of former residents this month. The trip was part of a visa-free exchange program between Japan and Russia.

Maruyama asked the group's leader whether he supported a return of the islands by means of war. The lawmaker also reportedly got drunk and tried to defy a ban on leaving the place he was staying at.

The governing bloc submitted a draft resolution rebuking Maruyama earlier this week, while opposition parties submitted a draft resolution urging him to give up his Diet seat.

Steering committee directors from the governing and opposition blocs plan to discuss how to handle the two draft resolutions on Friday.

The Japanese government maintains the Russian-held islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory. It says the islands were illegally occupied after World War Two.