Japanese government backs under-siege defence minister over alleged military cover-up

Concealed activity logs contained controversial information pertaining to the security situation in South Sudan, where Japan deployed peacekeepers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 July, 2017, 12:07pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 July, 2017, 12:07pm

The Japanese government on Wednesday denied a report alleging Defence Minister Tomomi Inada allowed officials to conceal the existence of controversial activity logs of Japanese peacekeepers in South Sudan, following claims by her ministry that the records had been discarded.

“Ms Inada has said no such event took place” as reported, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference.

Inada said the same day she neither authorised the concealment of the logs nor approved a plan to withhold the fact that they existed.

Kyodo News reported the defence minister’s role in the suspected cover-up on Tuesday, citing government sources.

The Defence Ministry had said the Ground Self-Defence Force had discarded the logs recorded by its members taking part in a UN peacekeeping mission in the fledging African country.

Digital data from the logs were later found, but top officials decided at a meeting on February 15 they would not uncover this fact, with Inada agreeing to the concealment, according to the sources.

Tetsuo Kuroe, the ministry’s top bureaucrat, said on Wednesday he had no recollection of the meeting that reportedly took place in February, saying he did not believe Inada had given such approval.

The activity logs in question contained controversial information pertaining to the security situation in South Sudan.

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Any government documents suggesting a conflict situation in South Sudan would be sensitive in Japan, especially in connection with the war-renouncing constitution that imposes strict restrictions on the use of weapons by the SDF overseas.

The revelation suggests Inada played a role in a suspected cover-up at the top echelon of the ministry and the country’s defence forces. It is another blow to the minister who continues to face questions over her competence following a series of missteps.

The Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance under the direct control of the defence minister is currently looking into whether the ministry intentionally concealed the activity logs. The outcome is expected to be unveiled in the near future.