Reports: Japan defense chief to quit over document cover-up
By MARI YAMAGUCHI
Jul. 27, 2017
TOKYO (AP) — Japan's beleaguered defense minister, a protege of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will step down in connection with an alleged cover-up of military documents from U.N. peacekeeping operations, media reports said Thursday.
Defense Minister Tomomi Inada will announce her resignation on Friday when results of an internal probe of the scandal are issued, public broadcaster NHK and other media reported.
The defense ministry is accused of hiding parts of a daily log of activities by Japanese U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan that referred to dangers faced by the troops, a sensitive topic.
The popularity of Abe's administration has plunged over a series of recent scandals, including accusations of misuse of power and cronyism.
Abe is expected to reshuffle his Cabinet next week to regain public support, but has been criticized for defending Inada for too long. Opposition lawmakers plan to grill Abe over his appointment of Inada, who had little expertise in national security.
In the alleged cover-up, media reports said defense officials tried to conceal logs containing references to worsening safety in the area where Japanese peacekeeping troops were repairing roads. Defense officials initially denied a public information disclosure request, saying the documents had been destroyed, but a subsequent probe in March found that the data actually existed.
A whistleblower recently revealed that Inada had approved a plan to reject the request despite knowing the documents existed. Inada has denied she gave consent.
Inada, a lawyer, has also come under fire for an election campaign speech in which she sought support for a ruling party candidate on behalf of her ministry and military troops, an alleged violation of a law requiring political neutrality for government employees. She has also been criticized for links to an ultra-nationalist school operator now under criminal investigation for an allegedly fraudulent state land transaction.
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