Editorial: Inada’s Resignation Reveals Bigger Problem: Can Japan’s Self-Defense Forces Fight?

 

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada resigned on July 28 to take responsibility for an issue involving the daily operations log of the United Nations Peace Keeping Operation (PKO) in South Sudan. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will jointly serve as defense minister until an expected Cabinet reshuffled on August 3rd pushes through.

 

 

Inada’s resignation was timed with the publication of the results of an investigation by the Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance. Further, it was announced that Undersecretary of Defense Tetsuro Kuroe would resign as of the 28th, and that Toshiyuki Okabe, chief of staff of the Ground Self-Defense Force, would be resigning effective August 8th.

 

 

The issue of hiding the daily operations log for the Japanese PKO forces dispatched to South Sudan culminated in the resignations of Minister of Defense Tomomi Inada, Undersecretary of Defense Tetsuro Kuroe, and Toshiyuki Okabe, chief of staff of the Ground Self-Defense Force.

 

The inept handling of the public disclosure of information relating to the peace keeping operation undermined public trust in the government. Moreover, the core of the Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Force continues to be buffeted from within and without in the aftermath of the issue. 
A high level of public support is indispensable to maintaining the strength of the Self-Defense Forces. Without coherent leadership, the Self-Defense Forces will lose their capability to deter attack from countries in the area. 
Inada bears a heavy responsibility for seriously undermining the foundation of national defense.

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “I wish to apologize to all the people from the bottom of my heart.” He bears a heavy responsibility for appointing Inada. The Prime Minister had continued to cover for Inada despite evidence that she did not provide coherent leadership and despite repeated gaffes and failure.

 

 


It is our hope that in reshuffling the Cabinet, the Prime Minister will not make a mistake in his appointment of the Minister of Defense because of the key role that official play in civilian control of the military.


What cannot be overlooked is that the suspicions over Inada’s involvement have not been resolved in the public report of the Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance.

 


An electronic version of the daily operations log that should have been “destroyed” was discovered by the Ground Self-Dense Force. On the basis that the logs were “not administrative documents,” the Ministry of Defense decided against making their existence public.

 


The focal point of this issue is whether Inada was notified by the Ground Self-Dense Force that the logs had been found.

 

According to the handwritten minutes of a meeting between Inada and top members of the Ground Self-Defense Forces command reported by Fuji Television, on February 13th Inada was informed that the daily operations logs had been found and that she, thinking of her upcoming testimony before the Diet, had said, “What do I say tomorrow?”

 


Nonetheless, Inada insists that there was no report that the daily operations logs had been preserved.

 

Because of the discrepancy in the testimony of the attendees at the February 13th meeting, the Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance avoided a clear-cut statement, saying instead, “The possibility of some form of remarks [noting the existence of the daily operations logs] cannot be denied.”

 

Inada has not exhausted her responsibility by resigning. She must endeavor to provide a full explanation at the off-session Diet hearings on this matter.

 

As for the daily operation logs, the issue is more than their discovery but why the Ministry of Defense did not make public that the Ground Self-Defense Force had preserved the daily operation logs. This can only be described as a case of very bad judgment.

 


The real issue is whether in an emergency the Self-Defense Forces can fight. This is not something that can be dealt with in terms of whether it impacts on the approval rating of the Cabinet or not.

 

 

 

(Click here to read the original article in Japanese.)

 

 

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