• Kyodo, Reuters


The government has instructed watchdog bodies to consider examining all certified Kobe Steel Ltd. plants as it steps up efforts to deal rigorously with the company’s quality control scandal, the industry minister said Tuesday.

One of the Japanese Industrial Standards-approved bodies tasked with checking the quality of products has started reviewing operations at the Hatano plant of Kobelco & Materials Copper Tube Co., a subsidiary of Japan’s third-largest steel maker.

“(We) will keep an eye on the result of the review,” Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko said at a news conference, referring to the plant located in Kanagawa Prefecture.

If a plant does not meet minimum industry standards, a certification organization will order it to take corrective measures. In serious cases, it can suspend shipments and withdraw certification.

Seko also urged Kobe Steel to set up a third-party investigation committee as soon as possible while implementing measures to prevent a repeat of the scandal.

Keiichi Ishii, minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, separately said his ministry began an on-site inspection of the Daian plant in Inabe, Mie Prefecture, on Monday.

Kobe Steel’s revelations of widespread tampering in the specifications of its products have sent a chill through global supply chains for cars, trains, airplanes and other equipment.

The inspection of the Daian plant is focusing on the safety of components being used in the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) passenger aircraft being developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, Ishii told reporters.

“As a country of design and manufacturing, we have an unmistakable commitment to safety,” he said. “We want to be absolutely sure of product safety as the MRJ heads toward mass production.”

The ministry plans to inspect the Daian plant through Wednesday, a source said.

In addition to that plant, aluminum product data were also falsified at Kobe Steel plants in Tochigi and Yamaguchi prefectures.

The repeatedly delayed MRJ is central to  the government’s plans to boost the domestic aerospace industry. The aircraft has yet to enter service.

Products with fabricated data have been used in the aircraft, a spokeswoman for Mitsubishi Heavy said Tuesday, adding no safety issues have been found. There is no impact on testing schedules for the MRJ, she said.

Kobe Steel sank deeper into crisis Friday when said it had lost some customers to competitors because of the widespread cheating.

It is also being inspected over whether it breached statutory industrial standards.

The metal conglomerate, founded in 1905, said it sold products that did not meet quality standards to some 500 companies. Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. as well as major Japanese railways are among businesses that used the affected materials.

Abroad, General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Airbus and Boeing Co. are also reportedly investigating whether they used any suspect materials from the Japanese steel maker.

The U.S. Justice Department has asked Kobe Steel to submit documents related to the data falsification scandal, while the European Aviation Safety Agency has advised aircraft manufacturers to stop procuring materials from Kobe Steel.

Kobe Steel shares, which have fallen about 36 percent since the scandal broke, were up 0.92 percent by the end of Tuesday trading in Tokyo.

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