Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada has tendered resignation taking responsibility over an alleged cover-up involving daily activity logs of Japanese troops serving as UN peacekeepers in South Sudan.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will take over as interim defense minister until new chief is appointed, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was quoted as saying by Japan Times on Friday.
The move by one of Abe’s key Cabinet allies, who shares his conservative views, comes just before a Cabinet reshuffle planned for next week in which she was already widely expected to be replaced, the news portal report stated.
Inada has denied playing a role in the alleged cover-up. Abe is considering picking someone with prior experience for Inada’s post, such as Itsunori Onodera, according to sources close to the government and ruling coalition.
Inada’s departure coincides with the ministry’s release of the results of its internal probe into the suspected cover-up.
The logs recorded the deteriorating security situation in South Sudan, and their disclosure last year could have impeded the government’s push to continue the troops’ participation in the UN mission and assign new, possibly riskier, security responsibilities.
The controversy over the logs dates back to December, when the ministry turned down an information disclosure request for logs covering the Ground Self-Defense Force activities in South Sudan in July last year, saying they had been deleted.
The ministry then backtracked, saying some of the data had been found on a computer in the SDF Joint Staff Office and releasing sections of it.
But top SDF officials reportedly knew at the time that the GSDF actually had the data. The Defense Ministry said Friday that an internal probe into the scandal found a series of law violations involving the ministry and officials, but denied that Inada played a role in concealing the data.