Japan trade minister quits

Japanese Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi leaves a press conference after announcing her resignation at her ministry in Tokyo Monday, Oct. 20, 2014. Obuchi resigned Monday amid growing controversy over allegations that she misused campaign funds.

AP / Koji Sasahara

TOKYO - Japan's trade minister resigned Monday amid growing controversy over allegations that she misused campaign funds.

Yuko Obuchi said at a news conference that the investigation is ongoing, and would interfere with her duties as minister of economy, trade and industry.

Her resignation is the first for the current administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and could dent his efforts to raise the profile of women both in politics and business.

The questions over Obuchi's use of election funds are the latest in a series of uproars over activities by some members of Abe's Cabinet. Obuchi is one of five women Abe appointed to Cabinet-level posts in a reshuffle last month that highlighted his commitment to promoting women to leadership positions.

Abe's justice minister, Midori Matsushima, meanwhile, has been under fire for distributing handheld fans, called "uchiwa," to supporters, also in possible violation of the Political Funds Control Law.

Since taking office in late 2012, Abe had managed until now not to lose any of his Cabinet members to scandal or other problems. The conservative Sankei newspaper ran a headline recently that read "Government's 'Resignation Dominos' Alert."

Obuchi, daughter of a former prime minister, has been viewed as a possible contender for prime minister. Grilled by opposition party members in parliament last week, she apologized for funding irregularities, though she said she had found no evidence of alleged personal use of campaign funds that were paid to a company run by a relative. Obuchi said neckties and handkerchiefs designed by her sister were used for political activities, as gifts and souvenirs.