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Inada’s qualifications as defense chief have long been questioned

  • July 28, 2017
  • , Asahi , p. 2
  • English Press

A senior Self-Defense Forces (SDF) officer’s opinion of Tomomi Inada, who resigned as defense minister less than one year on the job, was: “She absolutely lacks the qualifications of a leader of a military organization.” Inada’s capability has been questioned from the time she assumed this position.


Inada’s greatest strength is her relationship with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. She was first elected to the House of Representatives in September 2005 when Abe, who was then Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) deputy secretary general, personally recruited her. Her activities as a conservative commentator – as a writer for Sankei Shimbun’s “Seiron” column, for instance – attracted Abe’s attention.


Since the start of the second Abe administration in December 2012, Inada has been given important jobs. Abe has given her preferential treatment as a “future leader.” She was appointed minister for administrative reform even though she was only serving her third term in the Lower House. She subsequently achieved career advances at great speed, being given such jobs as head of the LDP Policy Research Council and defense minister.


However, she got into serious trouble as defense minister, a key cabinet position responsible for national security. Her capability has often been questioned in the past year.


She first came under fire for her past hawkish statements and actions. She was questioned, for instance, on a previous remark that Japan should consider possessing nuclear arms in the long term. She visited Yasukuni Shrine last December, provoking strong reactions from China and the ROK.


Her responses to Diet interpellations were also fiercely criticized by the opposition. She called the large-scale “battle” in Juba, South Sudan, in July last year “armed conflict” in an attempt to claim that the dispatch of the SDF did not violate the Constitution.


In the Moritomo Gakuen affair, she reversed a previous denial that she had never been involved with Moritomo Gakuen’s lawsuits, stating on the next day that she “did not recall.”


What ultimately doomed Inada was her failure to grasp the seriousness of the situation and her lack of leadership as the chief of the Defense Ministry and the SDF. In a campaign speech for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election on June 27, she made a remark that could be taken as using the SDF for political purposes. She was regarded as one of the main “culprits” behind the LDP’s historic defeat in this election.


While Inada was supposed to be leading Japan’s defense policy amid an increasingly harsh security environment, she decided to resign on the day North Korea was showing signs of firing more missiles. A senior Defense Ministry official remarked bitterly: “What are we supposed to do if North Korea fires another missile tomorrow? I hope Ms. Inada never returns to Ichigaya (where the ministry is located).” (Abridged)

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