Japan's gaffe-prone deputy prime minister has said Tokyo could learn from Nazi Germany when it comes to constitutional reform, prompting a rebuke from a Jewish human rights group.
In a statement on its website late Tuesday, the US-based Simon Wiesenthal Center called on Taro Aso to clarify his comments that Tokyo, which is mulling a change to its pacifist constitution, should look to the way the Nazis quietly adopted reforms.
"First, mass media started to make noises (about Japan's proposed reforms), and then China and South Korea followed suit," Aso was quoted by Japanese media as saying in a speech Monday to a conservative think tank.
"The German Weimar constitution changed, without being noticed, to the Nazi German constitution. Why don't we learn from their tactics?"
In response, the Jewish rights group said: "The only lessons on governance that the world should draw from the Nazi Third Reich is how those in positions of power should not behave".
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the Japanese government's top spokesman, on Wednesday declined to answer media questions about the comments, saying "deputy prime minister Aso should answer that question".
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party has said it wants to revise the US-imposed pacifist constitution to define Japan's defence forces as a full-fledged military force, amid territorial tensions with neighbours China and South Korea.
That has stirred strong emotions in Beijing and Seoul which have long maintained that Japan has never come to terms with its militaristic past.
Aso, who is also Japan's finance minister, is known for his sometimes uncomfortable remarks, including saying earlier this year that elderly people should "hurry up and die" to avoid taxing the country's medical system.
Earlier on HuffPost:
Hwang Kum-Ju (86), a former 'comfort woman,' who served as a sex slave for Japanese troops during World War II, shout slogans during a protest against Japan's sovereignty claims over the Dokdo islets, which South Korea currently controls, in front of the Japanese Embassy on April 6, 2005 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Former Filipina World War II sex slave, Virginia Manalastas (L) and other women protest outside the Japanese embassy in Manila to mark the international women's day. (ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Former 'comfort woman' Taiwanese Tao Cheng-Chen sits during a commemoration for the deaths of former 'comfort women' during protests demanding Japan issue an official apology and justice, on International Human Rights Day in front of the building of the Interchange Association, Japan in Taipei on December 10, 2012. (Mandy Cheng/AFP/Getty Images)
Former South Korean comfort woman Kil Un-ock, center, who was forced to serve for the Japanese troops as a sexual slave during World War II, shouts slogans during a rally against the recent comment of Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto in front of Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A South Korean former 'comfort woman', who was forced to serve as a sex slave for Japanese troops during World War II, shouts slogans during the 1,035th weekly protest against Japan in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul on August 15, 2012. (JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/GettyImages)
Two former Korean 'comfort women' forced into wartime to work in a Japanese army Imperial army brothels hold up 22 February 1995 paintings describing Japanese atrocities during a regular weekly protest outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul. (KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A former 'comfort woman' who fainted while taking part in a demonstration near the Japanese Embassy 09 February 1993 is carried away from the scene as the marchers scuffled with police when they were stopped from parading the coffin of Han Chong-On, a former sex slave for the Japanese Army during WWII, past the embassy. (KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean former comfort woman who was forced to serve as sex slave for Japanese troops during World War II, wipes her tears during a rally on the occasion the 700th weekly anti-Japanese rally, in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, 15 March 2006. (CHOI WON-SUK/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean protesters tear a Japanese rising sun flag during a rally demanding full compensation and apology for wartime sex slaves from Japanese government and criticizing the Japanese government's recent claim over the disputed islets called Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan, in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Stella Adriatico has her hands tied with a paper chain during a protest to express the plight of women who were used as comfort women or sex slaves by Japanese soldiers during World War II during a rally, July 12, 2002 in front of the Japanese Embassy in Pasay City, Philippines. (Photo by Gabriel Mistral/Gettyimages)
Former Filipina sex slave Cristeta ALcober, 77, cries during a protest rally in front of the Japanese embassy in Manila, 13 January 2004. (JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)