Japanese Defense Minister to Step Down

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Defense Minister Tomomi Inada arrives at her ministry Thursday morning. Sources said Inada later expressed an intention to resign after allegations of a cover-up of logs recording the activities of Japanese troops serving as U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan.
Tomomi Inada has been plagued by a controversy over the handling of records of a Japanese peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. Her ministry is expected to release its findings of an investigation into it on Friday.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada decided Thursday to resign following allegations of a cover-up of logs detailing the activities of Japanese troops serving as U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan, government sources said.

Her decision was intended to take responsibility for the confusion surrounding the allegation, according to media reports.

This is the fourth minister to step down in the current Cabinet, following reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura’s resignation in April.

Earlier in the day, a government source said the Ground Self-Defense Force’s chief of staff will resign following the allegations.

Gen. Toshiya Okabe declined to comment Thursday morning on whether he intends to step down.

Other government sources said he was among top officials who had decided not to reveal the existence of the logs, which the Defense Ministry once claimed had been discarded.

Sources also said Vice Defense Minister Tetsuro Kuroe, the ministry’s top bureaucrat, might also step down.

Amid increasing criticism against the ministry, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had already been considering replacing the beleaguered defense minister in the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle early next month.

Inada faced tough questions about her competence, including allegations she tried to hide an inconvenient development in the handling of the controversial data that documented GSDF activities in the U.N. mission. She has strongly denied the accusation.

The former defense ministers thought to be possible picks to replace Inada are Itsunori Onodera, Yoshimasa Hayashi, Yasukazu Hamada and Gen Nakatani, all lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Other sources suggest LDP policy chief Toshimitsu Motegi could be a suitable choice. He has not held the defense portfolio before but has experience as trade minister and in positions of responsibility within the party.

There are also suggestions Abe should give several other ministerial posts to lawmakers with previous Cabinet experience to reduce the likelihood of further scandals or verbal gaffes.

Approval ratings for the Abe Cabinet have plummeted in recent weeks amid claims the prime minister influenced a government decision to benefit a close friend.

Inada’s perceived incompetence has engendered distrust and criticism from both ruling and opposition parties.

The logs recording the activities of the Japanese troops described particularly tense situations in the fledgling African country, and their disclosure last year could have adversely affected the government’s push to continue the troop deployment and assign it a new — and possibly riskier — security role during the U.N. mission.

The ministry has conducted an internal probe into the scandal and is preparing to announce the outcome Friday.

Japan Times

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