TOKYO – Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma stepped down Tuesday amid mounting criticism of comments he made over the weekend that could be taken to justify the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the closing days of World War II.

Kyuma met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Prime Minister’s Office Tuesday afternoon and offered to step down.

“I met with the mayor of Nagasaki today, and I understand that what I said upset people there,” Kyuma said to reporters after emerging from his meeting with Abe.

“My remarks were not reported in the way I intended them, and I’ve failed to gain the understanding (of Nagasaki’s people). I told the prime minister I’ll resign to take responsibility,” he said.

The prime minister accepted Kyuma’s offer to step down.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki announced Tuesday afternoon that Abe had appointed Yuriko Koike, a national security adviser to the prime minister, as Kyuma’s successor. Koike is to be sworn in at an attestation ceremony on Wednesday afternoon.

The defense minister’s resignation came amid growing criticism sparked by his remarks in a speech at a lecture meeting in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, on Saturday. “I understand the bombing brought the war to an end. I think it was something that couldn’t be helped,” he said.