The Defense Ministry has not yet produced a report on the alleged mishandling of daily activity logs written by Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) troops during their peacekeeping mission in South Sudan.
It is being closely watched whether the report will be published before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe conducts a Cabinet reshuffle — possibly on Aug. 3 — in which Defense Minister Tomomi Inada is widely expected to be replaced.
Inada ordered the special inspection to be carried out into the case by the Defense Ministry Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance in March.
Following a request for the disclosure of the daily logs to review GSDF peacekeepers’ activities in the strife-torn African nation, GSDF officials said last December that they had been discarded. But it was later revealed that electronic data about the logs was still available on GSDF devices.
There is suspicion that an order may have been issued for the data to be deleted.
With the help of prosecutors, the special inspection office, under the direct control of the defense minister, has interviewed more than 100 personnel in an attempt to find out who decided to keep the data secret.
Some past special inspection cases took more than a year to complete. But the ministry is planning to publish the results of the ongoing inspection before the Cabinet reshuffle, with a source close to the ministry saying the report pertaining to this case should be published while Inada is in office.
At a news conference Friday, Inada said she has instructed her ministry to announce the inspection results soon. But she also said it is important to confirm all the facts thoroughly.
One focus is disciplinary measures to be taken against those responsible for the scandal.
Senior GSDF officers are said to have denied organizational efforts to keep the data from being disclosed. A GSDF source said one officer is likely to have acted without authorization by surmising the intent of the top echelon.
Still, a senior Defense Ministry official said Gen. Toshiya Okabe, chief of staff of the GSDF, cannot escape responsibility.
The defense minister is not covered by the special inspection and the scrutiny will continue even if Inada is replaced in the coming Cabinet shake-up.
But Inada is expected to again be accused of lacking leadership if the results of an inspection she ordered are not published after four months, analysts said.