Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, has warned his cabinet colleagues to "watch your mouths", issuing the warning at their regular meeting on Tuesday after two big embarrassments to his government.
Fumio Kyuma, the defence minister, angered the US last week by saying that he thought the decision to go to war against Iraq was a mistake.
A few days later, Hakuo Yanagisawa, the health minister, called women "birth-giving machines".
Hakubun Shimomura, the cabinet's deputy chief spokesman, said on Tuesday: "Abe told the ministers to be careful of what they say." But Abe has not asked either minister to step down.
Shimomura said Abe was particularly concerned by Yanagisawa's remark which he described as "inappropriate".
Kyuma, one of the more liberal members of Abe's cabinet, started the ball rolling when he described the US invasion of Iraq as a "mistake", "based on an assumption that weapons of mass destruction existed".
Hakuo Yanagisawa, the health minister, called
women "birth-giving machines" [Reuters]
The defence minister made the comments hours after George Bush, the US president, delivered his annual state of the union address on January 23.
Under intense pressure, Kyuma later said his remarks were misinterpreted and that he had meant to say that he thought at the time of invasion that the US needed to be "more cautious".
Japan, the staunchest American ally in Asia, had sent several hundred troops to Iraq on a humanitarian mission to support the US-led invasion.
Yanagisawa's remarks on Saturday came during a speech on Japan's falling birthrate, and drew criticism from the opposition and the ruling bloc.
"The number of women between the ages of 15 and 50 is fixed. The number of birth-giving machines [and] devices is fixed, so all we can ask is that they do their best per head," Yanagisawa reportedly said.
The minister later apologised and retracted his remarks. "You can't just say whatever you please in this cabinet," Yasuhisa Shiozaki, the administration's top spokesman, said.
The public gaffes come as Abe's support ratings have hit their lowest level and opinion polls show weakening support for his cabinet.
Abe's administration faces crucial parliamentary elections in July.