TOKYO – Japan’s Defence Minister Tomomi Inada submitted her resignation on Friday to take responsibility for a scandal involving the cover-up of logs that recorded the activities of Japanese ground troops serving as United Nations peacekeepers in South Sudan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.
Inada’s duties as defence minister will be taken over by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida until the appointment of a new defence chief, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.
Her resignation came ahead of a planned Cabinet reshuffle by the prime minister next week.
Sources close to the matter said Friday that amid diminishing public trust in the Defence Ministry and the Self-Defence Forces, Abe is looking to replace Inada with someone with experience, with former Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera’s name being floated as her likely successor.
Inada’s resignation follows allegations that senior members of the Defence Ministry and top brass from the Ground Self-Defence Forces had knowledge of controversial mission logs containing the daily activities of troops deployed to South Sudan on a UN peacekeeping mission.
The Defence Ministry initially said in December last year that the mission logs from July detailing the increasingly severe situation for the Japanese troops, had been discarded by GSDF members.
The Ministry in February, in a volte-face, said it had found the logs in digital format on a computer belonging to the Self-Defence Forces Joint Staff Office.
But the ministry, at this juncture, still falsely claimed that the GSDF had discarded the same data.
The descriptions in the controversial logs would have certainly seen the Japanese troops withdrawn from the area in South Sudan as they could have become caught up in fighting there, which would not only endanger their lives, but also contravene the nation’s pacifist Constitution.
When Japan did finally pull its GSDF troops from the UN mission at the end of May this year, it said it was because the troops’ activities had produced notable results during their five-year placement.
The government here made no mention of the troops being pulled because of the rapidly deteriorating security situation in South Sudan.
Inada has denied the allegations being levied at her and following a probe into the situation by the Defence Ministry, the ministry also denied on Friday that Inada had played a role in concealing the data.
Inada, a close ally of the prime minister became defence minister in a Cabinet reshuffle in August last year.