Japan’s defense minister quits amid cover-up fallout
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.