All papers gave prominent front- and inside-page play to Defense Minister Inada’s intention to step down to take responsibility for the cover-up of the daily activity logs kept by the GSDF unit engaged in peacekeeping operations in South Sudan. Inada conveyed her decision yesterday to Prime Minister Abe, who is likely to take up the post of defense chief temporarily until he officially appoints a new minister on Aug. 3 in a planned reshuffle of the cabinet lineup. Vice Defense Minister Kuroe and GSDF Chief of Staff Okabe are also expected to step down following the release today of findings by the ministry’s inspector general regarding the scandal.
The papers said Inada’s resignation will deal another blow to the embattled prime minister, who has been strongly criticized by lawmakers of his own party for defending the beleaguered defense chief despite a series of scandals, including a gaffe related to the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, in the past several months. Mainichi said Abe had no choice but to “dismiss” Inada before the planned cabinet reshuffle next week in the face of growing calls for her resignation within the LDP. Nikkei conjectured that the Kantei decided to have Inada step down yesterday evening after it learned that Democratic Party leader Renho had decided to resign. Several papers said Abe’s ability to select qualified politicians for his cabinet is now being seriously called into question because Inada will be the sixth cabinet minister to resign since the prime minister was sworn in about five years ago.
The dailies also highlighted that most MOD and SDF officials have been skeptical about Inada’s suitability as the nation’s defense leader from the beginning, with Asahi quoting an MOD source as saying: “What would happen if North Korea were to launch a missile tomorrow? We don’t want Inada to return to the ministry ever again!” An unnamed GSDF official said to Mainichi: “It was wrong in the first place for Abe to tap an inexperienced politician as the defense chief.” Sankei said the most pressing task for Inada’s successor will be to rebuild the ministry and the SDF following the turmoil caused by the anticipated resignation of the three top officials. According to the paper, the schism between civilians and uniformed officials has apparently deepened due to the cover-up scandal. Nikkei wrote that the mutual distrust between civilians and uniformed officials is too strong to be dispelled readily.