Japan's defense minister has resigned over controversial comments about the U.S. atomic bombings of Japan in the Second World War. As VOA's Heda Bayron reports from our Asia News Center, the resignation comes as public support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe weakens ahead of parliamentary elections.

Fumio Kyuma came under heavy criticism from politicians, atomic bomb survivors and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over his comments Saturday that the 1945 U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki "could not be helped". Kyuma's critics say his remarks suggested that the bombings were justified.

Japan is officially against the use of nuclear weapons.

On Tuesday, the defense minister resigned.

Kyuma says he met with the prime minister and told him that it was in the best interest of everybody if he took a resolute stand to quell public anger and resign. He says the prime minister accepted his decision.

National Security Advisor Yuriko Koike has been named as the new defense minister, the first woman to lead Japan's defense system.

Mr. Abe reprimanded Kyuma Monday as the issue added to the ruling party's woes ahead of parliamentary elections later this month. Public support for Mr. Abe's government has plunged in recent months.

Kyuma is the second minister to resign since Mr. Abe took office last September; the minister for administrative reform resigned over allegations of funding irregularities. A third, the farm minister, committed suicide in May over a funding scandal.

Kyuma, who represents Nagasaki in parliament, has apologized for the trouble caused by his comments.

More than 200,000 people died either immediately after the bombings in August 1945, or a few months later, because of radiation sickness. Tens of thousands of survivors died years later of cancer or other illnesses linked to radiation exposure.

Japan, which attacked the United States in 1941, surrendered shortly after the bombings, ending the Second World War.

Japan's wartime record remains a sensitive issue among the Japanese, and in much of Asia. Visits by Japanese politicians to a shrine in Tokyo honoring war criminals, for instance, have triggered protests from China and South Korea, where many people feel Tokyo has yet to fully acknowledge the damage caused by its military invasions.