Ja­pan’s de­fense min­is­ter quits amid cover-up fall­out

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By CAI HONG in Tokyo cai­hong@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Ja­panese De­fense Min­is­ter To­momi Inada re­signed on Fri­day amid an al­leged coverup of in­ter­nal doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing the daily ac­tiv­i­ties and safety con­di­tions of Ja­pan’s Ground Self-De­fense Force dur­ing its United Na­tions peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions in South Sudan.

Ac­cept­ing Inada’s res­ig­na­tion, Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe apol­o­gized on Fri­day to the pub­lic. Abe said For­eign Min­is­ter Fu­mio Kishida would add the de­fense port­fo­lio to his du­ties un­til a new de­fense chief is ap­pointed.

At ad hoc meet­ings of Ja­pan’s par­lia­ment on Mon­day and Tues­day, Abe turned down op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers’ de­mand to fire Inada.

The op­po­si­tion had asked Inada to clar­ify the cover-up. When the De­fense Min­istry was asked in De­cem­ber to dis­close the logs cov­er­ing the Self-De­fense Forces’ op­er­a­tions in South Sudan in July 2016, it said the data had been deleted. Dig­i­tal data was sub­se­quently found stored in not only the of­fices of the Joint Staff, but also those of the Ground Self-De­fense Force.

The SDF’s over­seas op­er­a­tion is a sen­si­tive is­sue in Ja­pan, given the coun­try’s paci­fist Con­sti­tu­tion. The SDF were au­tho­rized to use weapons un­der cer­tain con­di­tions in South Sudan. Ja­panese me­dia have re­ported that SDF of­fi­cials had tried to hide the logs be­cause they showed a wors­en­ing se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the African coun­try. Ja­pan ended its par­tic­i­pa­tion in the peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tion in May.

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