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Japan Gets New Justice Minister

March 8, 1999

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan swore in a new justice minister Monday after a flap over letting Arnold Schwarzenegger into the country without a passport prompted the former minister to resign.

Takao Jinnouchi, 65, who had been a Construction Ministry bureaucrat, was sworn in at a ceremony at the Imperial Palace on Monday night.

``I deeply recognize the importance of my job during these harsh times for Japan,″ Jinnouchi said in a statement, referring to his country’s economic troubles.

His predecessor, Shozaburo Nakamura, 64, stepped down after opposition politicians paralyzed parliament with protests over the Schwarzenegger issue.

Opposition politicians allege that Nakamura, reportedly a die-hard Schwarzenegger fan, took home as souvenirs ministry documents that permitted the former bodybuilder to enter Japan last October without a passport. The documents should have been filed with the ministry.

``I am sorry my words and actions hindered the workings of Parliament. I keenly feel responsibility,″ Nakamura was quoted as saying by Kyodo News service.

It wasn’t the first time Nakamura had stirred controversy. He earlier drew fire for calling on Japan to take a more active role militarily in the world and for his alleged involvement in a real estate scandal.

The resignation was the second from Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s Cabinet since he took office last summer. The head of Japan’s Defense Agency resigned in November amid a scandal over procurement contracts for military equipment.

But with opinion polls showing rising public approval for the prime minister’s handling of the economy, Obuchi appears likely to weather the storm.

Nakamura gave Schwarzenegger permission to enter the country after the actor’s private jet landed at an airport in Osaka, a city in western Japan, on Oct. 27. The star later said he arrived without his passport because it was stolen just before he left the United States.

Schwarzenegger, who has appeared in Japanese television commercials for instant noodles, beer and cable TV, was in Japan to attend an opening ceremony for a Universal Studios theme park.

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