TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Saturday he has sacked a close aide after discriminatory remarks he recently made against sexual minorities came to light.
Masayoshi Arai, an elite bureaucrat who served as executive secretary to Kishida, said on Friday that he would "not want to live next door" to an LGBT couple and that he does "not even want to look at them."
Arai retracted the comments, made off-the-record to reporters, later in the day after they were made public by the media.
Kishida, who has recently struck a cautious note about legally recognizing same-sex marriage, told reporters earlier Saturday that the comments made by Arai "cannot but force" the Cabinet to consider his future.
"Executive secretary Arai's remarks totally contradict the government's policy and are inexcusable," said Kishida.
Arai also said that if same-sex marriage is introduced in Japan, it would "change the way society is" and that "there are quite a few people who would abandon this country."
Arai later apologized and withdrew the comments after Japanese media made them public. He said the remarks did not reflect Kishida's own thinking. The remarks came after Kishida expressed caution at a parliamentary session last week over legally recognizing same-sex marriage.
"We need to be extremely careful in considering the matter as it could affect the structure of family life in Japan," Kishida said, although several lawsuits have been filed across the nation by same-sex couples.
Many members of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party led by Kishida have opposed same-sex marriage, citing what they say are the country's traditional values such as the role of women in raising children.
Arai's comments are likely to prompt the left-leaning opposition bloc to grill Kishida over his fundamental views on the family in Japan during the current Diet session, which began Jan. 23, political experts said.
Late last year, the LGBT issue drew fresh attention when LDP lawmaker Mio Sugita, the then parliamentary vice minister for internal affairs and communications, was compelled to retract past remarks against sexual minority couples.
Sugita, who was effectively sacked by Kishida in December, had come under fire in 2018 for saying in a magazine article that the government should not support sexual minority couples because they cannot bear offspring and thus are "not productive."
Japan remains the only Group of Seven nation that does not recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions.