LDP vice president calls for Tokyo governor's resignation

Liberal Democratic Party Vice President Masahiko Komura on Wednesday called for Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose to resign over a conflict of interest arising from a suspicious loan from scandal-hit hospital chain Tokushukai.

"The fact that (Inose) received a large sum of money from someone who does business related to his authority (as governor) is enough to warrant his resignation," Komura told reporters in Tokyo, referring to the governor's power over approving the opening of hospitals.

"If he delays his decision, Tokyo's preparations for the 2020 Olympics will be affected," Komura said. "And his contribution to Tokyo's successful bid will be spoiled."

Komura's comments were the first on the issue by a senior LDP lawmaker, and came as the steering panel of the Tokyo metropolitan assembly decided to set up a special committee to investigate the 50 million yen loan to Inose from Tokushukai ahead of the gubernatorial election last December.

The committee, the first of its kind investigating a Tokyo governor's conduct, is bound by the Local Autonomy Law, under which Inose or any party called to testify could be fined or charged for refusing to testify or committing perjury.

Prime Minister and LDP President Shinzo Abe was briefed on the assembly's investigation by party aide and LDP lower house member Koichi Hagiuda during a meeting at the prime minister's office Wednesday.

Inose was grilled for 20 hours over four days the past two weeks by a committee session of the assembly, but he has backtracked from his remarks several times, triggering protests from the assembly.

Tokushukai, one of the largest Japanese operators of medical facilities, is at the center of an election violation case involving House of Representatives member Takeshi Tokuda.

It was also revealed Wednesday that Inose was told by Tokuda's father Torao, the founder of Tokushukai and its former head, in November 2012 that he intended to acquire a hospital run by Tokyo Electric Power Co., according to a source close to the matter.

The utility, known as TEPCO, announced in October 2012 its plan to sell the hospital as part of streamlining measures after its business was heavily affected by the nuclear crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

Earlier this month, Inose told the Tokyo assembly that he did not discuss that matter with Torao Tokuda during their meeting.

Inose also said the planned sell-off plan of the TEPCO hospital and the 50 million yen he "borrowed" from Tokushukai were completely separate matters, and he denied helping Tokushukai or that the hospital group asked him to do a favor.

Tokushukai participated in the bidding for the TEPCO hospital in August, but withdrew as soon as it faced a criminal investigation by Tokyo prosecutors over the alleged election violation.