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     TOKYO (MNI) - Defense Minister Tomomi Inada has decided to resign over her
alleged involvement in a ministry cover-up of daily activity logs on
peacekeeping operations in South Sudan, Japanese media reported Friday.
     Her resignation was widely expected as the public support for the cabinet
of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has continued to slide over its handling of
political scandals, casting doubt over his leadership ahead of parliamentary
elections expected next year.
     The Defense Ministry initially said the records about Japan's mission in
the African country -- where there was a military clash in July last year -- had
been disposed of. But later it was found that the daily logs had been stored
digitally.
     Inada has denied that she was informed about a possible cover-up of the
records. The ministry has conducted an internal investigation into the scandal
and the results were expected to be released Friday.
     Tetsuro Kuroe, the ministry's top bureaucrat, and Toshiya Okabe, the chief
of staff at the Ground Self-Defense Forces, are also expected to resign.
     Abe has defended Inada, who shares his nationalistic views, but was
expected to replace her in a cabinet reshuffle he plans next week, a move he
wishes to refresh the image of his government.
     Inada is known for gaffes. Just days before the July 2 Tokyo assembly
election she blundered in asking for voters' support for an LDP candidate on
behalf of the Defense Ministry, suggesting civil servants were publicly
supporting a particular political candidate.
     In the past, she also came under fire for trying to justify Japan's wartime
atrocities, saying the women who were forced to work as sex slaves chose to do
so.
     In another scandal, opposition parties have charged that Abe showed
favoritism to a close friend over plans to open a veterinary faculty in a
special deregulation zone as part of the government's growth strategy. The
friend, Kotaro Kake, runs Kake Educational Institution (Kake Gakuen) which
operates universities, high schools and vocational schools.
     The Education Ministry has confirmed that there was a memo written by
Cabinet Office officials that urged the Education Ministry to handle the
application by Kake Gakuen because it was the intention of the Prime Minister's
Office. The ministry initially denied the existence of such an official
document.
     An expert witnesses who was a senior Education Ministry official testified
in parliament this week that he was under the impression that the order came
from the prime minister but other former and current government official
testified there was no evidence to support his claim.
     Opposition lawmakers have questioned why the government approved in January
a plan to open a veterinary school for the first time in 52 years when it is
believed that Japan had a sufficient number of veterinarians. Abe has repeatedly
denied that his friendship with Kake was a factor in the government's choice of
Kake Gakuen for the deregulation project.
--MNI Tokyo Bureau; tel: +81 90-2175-0040; email: hiroshi.inoue@marketnews.com
--MNI Tokyo Bureau; tel: +81 90-4670-5309; email: max.sato@marketnews.com
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