Japan’s deputy prime minister has retracted a comment that seemed to suggest that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had good intentions.

Taro Aso was speaking at a seminar for his faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Tuesday when he said: “I don’t question a politician’s motives; it is delivering results that matter. Hitler, who killed millions of people, was no good, even if his intentions had been good.”

Mr Aso said that remark was “inappropriate” and he would like to retract it and regretted having caused a misunderstanding.

He said he meant that Hitler was a bad leader with bad intentions.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a US-based Jewish human rights organisation, denounced the comment as “downright dangerous”.

An official at the centre, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, said: “When will the elite of Japan wake up and acknowledge that they have a ‘Nazi Problem’?”

Mr Aso is also the finance minister in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet, and served as Japan’s prime minister in 2008-9.

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said after Mr Aso retracted his statement that the deputy prime minister “should make his own explanation when the time comes”.

Mr Aso in 2008 was criticised for comparing the tactics of the Democratic Party of Japan to those of Nazis in 1930s Germany.

And in 2013 he withdrew a comment that seemed to suggest Japanese leaders should follow Nazi Germany’s example in changing the constitution.