Japan’s Defense Minister, Tomomi Inada, has resigned from the cabinet over allegations of a cover-up.
Her resignation comes at a time when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is embroiled in scandal. Public support for him has sunk with his approval ratings falling below 30%.
In March 2017, it was announced that Japanese Self Defense Force, on a United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, would withdraw. Japan’s 350-strong military contingent had been on a five-year mission to the region. Abe faced a lot of criticism for the mission and had promised to resign if any troops were killed. Critics have said that Abe’s actions went against Japan's war-renouncing constitution.
There are daily logs kept by the ground self-defense forces. Last year, the Japanese government said that they could not release the logs from July 2016 as they had been discarded. This caused a scandal as it was the same time when violence erupted in the region. The government, which reportedly recovered some of the data in a computer released the partial logs.
Critics, however, have alleged that the government had tampered with the logs because they likely contained details of Japanese troops being placed in dangerous situations.
Inada has repeatedly denied any role in a cover-up but the events caused a national scandal. While resigning, she apologized and offered to return one month’s salary back to the country. She had been one of the more popular members of the cabinet and was considered a possible candidate for premiership. The defense ministry’s top bureaucrat, Tetsuro Kuroe, and the chief of staff to the ground self-defence forces, Gen Toshiya Okabe will also be reportedly stepping down.
Abe, who was once considered a steadying hand in government, is now deeply unpopular in Japan. He is personally implicated in two other scandals involving possible corruption and abuse of power. The details can be found here.
His approval ratings are also sinking. Polls note that the Japanese citizens aren’t against his policies but rather do not trust him anymore.
Abe, has taken responsibility for Inada’s resignation and has apologized to the public. He said, “As Prime Minister I am responsible for the appointment of my ministers, and I believe I must take to heart all the serious criticisms from the public. I would like to apologise very sincerely.”
Our assessment is that it is unlikely that Abe will be able to weather the multitude of scandals enfolding around his administration. Inada is the fourth person to resign in the current Cabinet and the sixth minister to resign in Abe's 4½ years in power.