The Maritime Self-Defense Force said Monday that a destroyer crewman killed himself earlier this year after being bullied by his superior, a petty officer first class, since last October.
The MSDF has replaced the captain of the ship, which was not named but is stationed in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, and the MSDF Criminal Investigation Command intends to send papers on the petty officer to prosecutors.
The petty officer, identified as Koichi Goto, 42, has expressed remorse, saying his training methods had “gone too far,” according to the MSDF.
At a news conference, Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of staff of the MSDF, said he felt deep regret that the service was unable to prevent another death related to bullying.
He was referring to the death 10 years ago of a crew member of the destroyer Tachikaze.
Kawano said he had apologized to the family of the crewman in the latest incident.
The crew member was struck on the head by Goto and forced to kneel on the ground and touch his forehead to the ground, the MSDF said.
The MSDF did not disclose the crewman’s name, rank or the time of his suicide, citing his family’s wishes.
In July 2013, the crewman asked a division officer for a transfer from the ship because he was incompatible with Goto, the MSDF said.
Following repeated assaults by Goto in October 2013 and later, the crewman this year again requested permission to transfer.
Shortly after the crewman had an interview to discuss the matter with three of his superiors, including Goto, the petty officer forced him to stand while holding buckets filled with water.
One of the superiors saw this but took no action.
The crewman killed himself the following day while aboard the destroyer, the MSDF said.
Goto had been hiding the crewman’s mobile phone since last December and threw it into the sea the day after the suicide, according to the MSDF.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Monday that he took the incident seriously.
He added his ministry will respond harshly because the MSDF was unable to prevent the suicide even though the late crewman had consulted his superiors.
In April, the Tokyo High Court ordered the government to pay some ¥73 million in compensation for the 2004 suicide of the 21-year-old Tachikaze crewman.