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For the second time this year, a Cabinet minister has resigned after outraging Asian nations by playing down Japan's role in World War II. His successor immediately distanced himself from the remarks.

Shin Sakurai stepped down Sunday as head of the Environment Agency after his statement that Japan did not intend to invade Asian nations drew harsh rebukes from South Korea and China, two of the countries that suffered most from Japanese brutalities during the war.Sakurai's replacement, So-hei Miyashita, disavowed the remarks at a news conference, echoing Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama's position that Japan should feel remorse for the suffering it caused during the war.

Differences over Japan's responsibility for the war is a major issue dividing the coalition of Murayama's pacifist Socialists and the conservative Liberal Democrats, many of whom feel Japan has done enough apologizing.