Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on Wednesday took up the planned summit between Washington and Pyongyang, with a comment appearing to ridicule an aged North Korean airplane.
"I hope that awful-looking (North Korean) airplane will safely fly to Singapore because its falling on the way is no joking matter," Aso said at a gathering in Tokyo.
Aso, who also serves as finance minister, was apparently referring to the North Korean airplane that could carry the country's leader Kim Jong Un to Singapore.
Although Aso made the remark while welcoming recent developments leading up to the historic June 12 summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim, the former prime minister could come under fire over it.
The remark came as North Korea abruptly suspended inter-Korean ministerial talks slated for Wednesday, citing joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States, and threatened to cancel the Trump-Kim summit.
Aso has already faced a barrage of criticism for saying there is "no such thing as a sexual harassment charge" at a time when his ministry's top bureaucrat resigned over allegations of sexual harassment against a female reporter.
The 77-year-old veteran lawmaker also made comments Wednesday that could be taken as ridiculing fellow lawmakers, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
He touched on the Liberal Democratic Party's presidential election in 2012 in which Abe defeated Shigeru Ishiba, the party's secretary general, and Nobuteru Ishihara, who later became a state minister.
"If we were to choose from someone who looks gloomy, who is not so smart (and who has a stomach ache), the best thing to do would be to pick the one whose tummy hurts," Aso said.
Abe is known to suffer from ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease.