Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Monday fought back against speculation that the rejection of six scholars to the Science Council of Japan is attributed to their criticism of national security legislation approved under then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“(The appointment) has nothing to do with academic freedom. Isn’t that obvious no matter how you look at it?” the prime minister said in an interview with news organizations at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Suga’s remark Monday night was the first time he officially addressed the issue at length. The story was first reported by Japan Communist Party’s bulletin Akahata last Thursday. He only said the decision is consistent with the law Friday evening when asked by a reporter about it.