Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Wednesday his Liberal Democratic Party will require its lawmakers to sever ties with the Unification Church, which has come under the spotlight following the assassination of former leader Shinzo Abe in early July.

Kishida also told a press conference that he will answer questions in parliament on the government's decision to hold a state funeral for Abe. Opposition parties had urged Kishida to do so as the public remains divided over holding such an event for Abe, who often stirred controversy with his policies as prime minister.

"I believe people's trust in politics has been shaken because of issues such as the Unification Church and the state funeral," Kishida said.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a press conference at his office in Tokyo on Aug. 31, 2022. He returned to normal in-person work the same day, having recovered from a coronavirus infection suffered earlier this month. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

He apologized for the LDP facing doubts and questions after a number of its lawmakers were revealed to have had links with the religious group, with some of them publicly acknowledging receiving its support in past elections.

Followers of the church, now formally called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, have been convicted in Japan in connection with money illegally obtained from people through the use of threats.

The group has also come under scrutiny for purportedly demanding huge donations from its followers to the point their finances are ruined. Abe's assailant is said to have harbored a grudge against the group because of his mother's massive donations, and he believed that the former prime minister had ties with it.

LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi said the party's decision to demand cutting ties with the Unification Church is "grave," adding, "If there were lawmakers who failed to abide by it, we cannot work in the same party."

Kishida met the press after he resumed normal work on Wednesday, having recovered from a coronavirus infection and ending 10 days of self-isolation at the prime minister's official residence.

On the state funeral scheduled for Sept. 27, Kishida said, "I strongly feel that I need to squarely answer questions" about it from the opposition camp in parliament.

Jun Azumi, Diet affairs chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, welcomed Kishida's willingness, saying the prime minister "reversed his stance as he has faced strong public criticism and a united opposition camp."

Opposition parties have called for Kishida to explain the grounds for holding the state funeral as the public is split over the decision, given Abe's divisive political legacy and scandals.

A nationwide telephone poll conducted by Kyodo News earlier this month showed 56.0 percent remained unconvinced by Kishida's explanation as to why it was appropriate to hold a state funeral for Abe, against 42.5 percent who said they accepted it.

The Tokyo High Court this week upheld a district court's decision to dismiss a request filed by a group of 50 people, including civic group members, to issue an injunction ordering a stop to the state funeral. The group plans to file a special appeal to the Supreme Court.

The government has allocated 249 million yen ($1.8 million) of taxpayers' money for the state funeral, excluding expenditure for security and welcoming foreign dignitaries.

Kishida said the excluded costs will vary depending on the number of foreign guests attending the occasion, but the government plans to present them as soon as possible. Key foreign figures planning to attend the funeral include former U.S. President Barack Obama, current Vice President Kamala Harris and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Kishida defended the government's decision to hold the event, saying it is needed as many countries have expressed condolences over Abe's death.

"We have received many requests to attend the funeral from people including members of royal families, presidents and heads of states. I increasingly feel that we need to respond to such admiration and condolences with courtesy."

But he also said holding a state funeral is not meant to encourage people to go into mourning, a point of concern raised by opposition parties.

On that occasion, Kishida said, he intends to hold as many bilateral meetings with foreign dignitaries as possible and show that he will "inherit the diplomatic legacies of former Prime Minister Abe and build on them."

Together with the state funeral, the controversy surrounding the Unification Church has dampened public sentiment toward the Kishida government and the ruling LDP.

The church was founded in South Korea in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon.

An anti-communist political group linked to the church was established in Japan in 1968, and former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, Abe's grandfather, supported it. The group has been cited as the nexus between the church and Japanese politicians, particularly LDP lawmakers.

Tetsuya Yamagami, Abe's shooter, was quoted by investigative sources as saying that Kishi "invited the church (to Japan from South Korea). So I killed Abe."

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