National / Politics

No apology as Inada attends Defense Ministry resignation ceremony

Kyodo

At a ceremony to mark her resignation as defense minister, Tomomi Inada on Monday called for the creation of an “open” atmosphere in the ministry and Self-Defense Forces but did not apologize for the cover-up scandal that brought her down.

Inada resigned on Friday after a one-year stint that was marred by gaffes and missteps. The direct reason for her resignation, which took place just days ahead of a looming Cabinet reshuffle, was the ministry’s cover-up of Ground Self-Defense Force activity logs from the U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan in which she allegedly played a role.

Inada denied involvement in the cover-up but quit to take responsibility for the issue, which she said had “shaken public confidence” in the ministry and the SDF.

The revelations also led the ministry’s top bureaucrat, Tetsuro Kuroe, to quit for concealing the fact that the GSDF had retained logs that were thought to have been discarded. GSDF Chief of Staff Toshiya Okabe will exit later this month.

As for Inada’s alleged involvement, the Liberal Democratic Party’s Diet affairs chief, Wataru Takeshita, contacted his Democratic Party counterpart Kazunori Yamanoi by phone on Monday to reject the opposition party’s request that she be summoned before a Lower House committee to give testimony on the issue as an unsworn witness.

The GSDF unit’s logs stirred concern because they described some especially tense situations regarding its U.N. peacekeeping mission in the fledgling African country, which is in the middle of a civil war.

The SDF can only be deployed in conflict situations overseas when a cease-fire is in effect. If the area is deemed a combat zone, they must be recalled. The GSDF unit’s logs were being sought to shine light on deadly fighting that took place near its base in July 2016.

The Defense Ministry usually holds a ceremony for its departing minister, but a senior ministry official was irritated that Inada did not decline the offer at a time when the ministry is on high alert over North Korea’s second intercontinental ballistic missile test late Friday.

“We had a lot going on inside the ministry and she could have chosen to excuse herself. After all, she did not try to understand the feelings of the people on the front line,” the unnamed official said.

At the ceremony, Inada acknowledged that her ministry’s response to the GSDF information disclosure requests had been “inappropriate”, and urged senior ministry and SDF officials to come together.

“I hope you will work to build an open culture, cooperate more closely, and bring together the ministry and the SDF to ride out any kind of difficulties,” she said.

Inada then reviewed her honor guards and left the ministry in Tokyo to applause from ministry and SDF officials.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida is concurrently serving as defense minister.