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Politics

Japan PM's press chief resigns over pricey meal with Suga's son

Spokeswoman Yamada criticized after receiving $700 dinner tied to broadcaster

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, left, and Cabinet Public Relations Secretary Makiko Yamada. (Photo by Uichiro Kasai)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A senior press official of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's Cabinet has resigned, the government said Monday, after she drew fire over an ethics scandal involving the premier's eldest son.

Cabinet Public Relations Secretary Makiko Yamada, who moderates Suga's news conferences, has been hospitalized, a government source said. The reason for her hospitalization remains unknown. She was due to appear in parliament to face questioning over the scandal later Monday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at the House of Representatives' Budget Committee the government accepted her letter of resignation after she reported on Sunday evening that she was unwell and could no longer fulfill her duties.

Yamada came under criticism after she was found to have been treated to a dinner worth 74,000 yen ($700) in 2019 by Seigo Suga, who works for Tohokushinsha Film Corp.

At the time, she was a senior bureaucrat at the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. The company runs a satellite broadcasting business, to which the ministry grants licenses.

The National Public Service Ethics Law prohibits central government officials from receiving favors from companies in sectors it regulates.

Eleven officials of the communications ministry have been reprimanded after they were wined and dined by officials of the company, but Yamada escaped a reprimand as she has already left the ministry and the ethics code does not cover an individual granted special status to serve in a government post.

Yamada has offered to forfeit 60 percent of her salary as a press official for one month, or approximately 700,000 yen, over the scandal, but opposition legislators have called for her resignation.

Yamada became Japan's first female Cabinet public relations secretary under Suga and the first female executive secretary for a prime minister under his predecessor Shinzo Abe.

Tohokushinsha has subjected Seigo Suga to disciplinary action and dismissed him as head of the hobby and entertainment community operations at the firm's media business division. Tohokushinsha President Kiyotaka Ninomiya has also stepped down over the scandal.

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