Another leaked internal document has rocked the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, again suggesting that Defense Minister Tomomi Inada — contrary to previous public denials — had been informed Feb. 13 of an alleged data cover-up concerning Ground Self-Defense Force activity logs.
On Tuesday morning, TV broadcaster Fuji News Network reported that it had obtained a two-page memo hand-written by an anonymous senior Defense Ministry official.
The memo, an apparent record from a Feb. 13 meeting between Inada and officials of the ministry and the GSDF, suggests she had been notified of the existence of daily activity logs pertaining to SDF operations in South Sudan that were previously said to have been discarded.
The daily activities logs detailed GSDF’s operations in South Sudan, where troops had been authorized to use weapons under certain conditions. The overseas operations of the SDF is a sensitive matter in Japan given the country’s war-renouncing Constitution.
If authentic, the memo would deal yet another blow to Abe’s Cabinet because Inada has claimed she was never notified of the existence of the activity logs nor the subsequent cover-up efforts by the GSDF.
According the memo, the Feb. 13 meeting was attended by Inada and other senior Defense Ministry and GSDF officials, including Lt. Gen. Goro Yuasa, the GSDF’s deputy chief of staff, according to the image of the memo aired by FNN.
“We have only confirmed we don’t have the paper (version of the log). But (electronic) data does exist,” the memo quoted Yuasa as saying.
“What should I say in answering (questions) tomorrow?” Inada was quoted as asking, apparently referring to expected questions from opposition lawmakers at a Diet session scheduled for the following day.
“Have we reported that both (paper and electronic) files have been discarded?” Inada asked, according to the memo.
“Yes, we have answered Mr. Goto that we have discarded data too,” another attendant identified as Yoneyama said, referring to Yuichi Goto, a lawmaker with the Democratic Party, the largest opposition force, who asked numerous questions about the log issues during Diet sessions.
In response to a request from a freelance journalist, the Defense Ministry disclosed parts of the log in February after finding digital copies from the office of the Joint Chief of Staff of the Self-Defense Forces in December.
Meanwhile, in January, another set of digital files were found within the GSDF. But at a Feb. 15 meeting, the attendants, including Inada, decided to cover up that fact, according to media reports.
The memo reported by FNN apparently backs up the allegation in the previous media reports and has further deepened the public distrust over Inada’s denial.
On Wednesday the Democratic Party, the largest opposition force, held an emergency meeting with senior Defense Ministry officials, asking them to confirm the authenticity of the memo reported by FNN.
Masahiro Akase, a senior Defense Ministry official, declined to answer, saying a special inspection team including a prosecutor is investigating the alleged cover-up scandal by the GSDF.
Asked if Inada could potentially veto a report submitted by the inspection team, which she technically heads, Akase declined to comment, saying he needs to refer to other ministry officials to answer the question.
The inspection team now reportedly plans to release a report of its findings on Friday.
The Democratic Part and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have agreed to convene a special Diet session over the activity log cover-up after the release of the report.
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