Japan's Minister of economy, trade and industry, Yuko Obuchi- File pic
TOKYO: Japan's industry minister could resign over claims she spent political donations on make-up, local media reported Saturday, potentially delivering a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's bid to restart nuclear power.
Yuko Obuchi was appointed in September as the country's first female minister of economy, trade and industry -- a powerful portfolio that includes oversight of the energy sector.
The 40-year-old mother of two was the most prominent of a new wave of women promoted to leading Cabinet positions, and seen as a possible future prime minister of Japan.
But she is now facing claims that, over the five years to 2012, her political funding body spent more than 10 million yen ($95,000) on things unconnected to politics, including cosmetics and accessories at a department store.
Obuchi has told sources close to Abe that she intends to resign from her ministerial post, the Nikkei business daily reported.
It was widely expected by local media that Obuchi would meet with Abe on Saturday after he returns from an Asia-Europe summit in Italy.
But she told reporters at the industry ministry: "What I must do now is thoroughly investigate my own political fund.
"I have no plans" to meet Abe, she said.
Political funding rules in Japan do not explicitly bar much aside from outright bribery. They are generally interpreted to allow for spending on the running of offices and promotion of individuals.
"I am aware that I cannot possibly ignore this issue by saying I did not know," Obuchi told a parliamentary committee on economy and industry on Friday, promising a thorough investigation.
Obuchi, the daughter of a former prime minister, has rock solid political credentials and has been feted as a modern career woman, offering a role model in a country where successful working mothers are few and far between.
If she resigns, it will be the first such political blow to Abe since he took power in December 2012.
Her promotion was seen as part of an effort by Abe to bolster women, amid a campaign to increase their participation in the general workforce.
With her clean-cut image, Obuchi had been tasked with convincing a sceptical public of the need for nuclear power.
More than three years after the disaster at Fukushima, where a tsunami sent reactors into meltdown, the Japanese public remains unconvinced of the safety of the technology. - AFP