Japan's agriculture minister, Toshikatsu Matsuoka, killed himself on Monday, just hours before he was to face parliamentary questioning about a political finance scandal, government officials say.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns issued the following brief statement in response:
"I was saddened to learn today of the death of Japanese agricultural minister Matsuoka. Since coming into office last fall, he had worked to resolve trade challenges, which brought us together on several occasions. He ably represented Japan's agricultural interests. My condolences to Minister Matsuoka's family and to the people of Japan."
Matsuoka, 62, was found unconscious in his Tokyo apartment after having hanged himself and died in a hospital, government officials say.
His suicide was the first in Japan by a serving cabinet minister since at least World War II.