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--Updates With Official Announcement, Press Remarks 
     TOKYO (MNI) - Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said Friday she was
resigning over a ministry cover-up of daily activity logs on peacekeeping
operations in South Sudan but denied that she was directly involved.
     "I keenly realize my responsibility as the minister and decided to resign
from the post," she told a news conference.
     Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized, saying he was responsible for the
appointment of Inada in August last year. Abe told reporters that Foreign
Minister Fumio Kishida will fill in as the defense chief.
     "I must take the public's harsh criticism of the cabinet minister
seriously," Abe said. But his remarks were a formality and didn't indicate he
would give up the premiership at any point in the future. 
     Inada's resignation was widely expected as public support for Abe's cabinet
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 revealed the daily logs had been stored
digitally.
     The mission is politically sensitive given Japan's pacifist post-war
Constitution, which Abe wants to rewrite to allow the government to send more
troops overseas. The U.S., Japan's close ally, may welcome a more assertive
Japanese role in conflict zones but China and South Korea are wary of any
heavier Japanese military presence due to its war-time aggression in Asia. 
     The results of the ministry's internal investigation into the scandal
released Friday showed the ministry failed to disclose information about its
operations required by law, Inada told a news conference, saying the outcome was
"regrettable and serious."
     Inada has denied she was involved in the cover-up.
     The results of the investigation showed no evidence that there was a
written report to the minister about the hidden records or the minister was
informed about the cover-up, she said.
     "I still don't recall that I received a report on the existence of the
daily logs," she said. But the minister will return one month of her salary to
the government as part of her punishment.
     Vice Minister Tetsuro Kuroe, the ministry's top bureaucrat, was suspended
for four days. Toshiya Okabe, the chief of staff at the Ground Self-Defense
Forces, was punished with a pay cut. The two are expected to resign, press
reports said.
     Abe has defended Inada as a protege who shares his nationalistic views but
was expected to replace her in a cabinet reshuffle he plans next week, a move he
hopes will resuscitate 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 witness 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 90-4670-5309; email: max.sato@marketnews.com
--MNI Tokyo Bureau; tel: +81 90-2175-0040; email: hiroshi.inoue@marketnews.com
--MNI BEIJING Bureau; +1 202-371-2121; email: john.carter@mni-news.com
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