Senior defense officials, SDF members to be disciplined over scandals

by Jul 10, 2024Featured Article, News

Japan’s Defense Ministry is planning to take disciplinary action later this week against some senior officials and a number of Self-Defense Force members over abuse of power and the mishandling of classified information, government sources said Tuesday.

The move comes with public mistrust toward the ministry and the SDF mounting over a series of scandals, amid the government’s attempt to significantly boost the country’s defense capabilities to address the increasingly severe security environment.

Earlier Tuesday, a Defense Ministry source also said some members of the Maritime Self-Defense Force are suspected of having fraudulently received allowances for diving training and duty, triggering further criticism of the SDF.

The ministry officials to be disciplined, including senior deputy minister-level personnel, have been accused of repeatedly making intimidating remarks against their subordinates, causing psychological suffering, the sources said.

Crew members on several destroyers have also been accused of mishandling sensitive information during an investigation covering the entire ministry and SDF, following initial cases revealed in the Ground Self-Defense Force and the MSDF in April.

In the first MSDF case, four members on the destroyer Inazuma, including a captain, were suspended or given pay cuts for assigning an unqualified crew member the task of recording vessel movements without confirming the personnel’s eligibility.

Adm. Ryo Sakai, chief of staff of the MSDF, is reportedly considering resigning. Similar cases are also suspected to have occurred in the Air Self-Defense Force and the Joint Staff Office responsible for integrating operations of the three branches.

Regarding the diving allowances, the sum of the alleged improper benefits paid to MSDF members, who had falsely stated they were engaged in diving work, might total tens of millions of yen, the source said.

A government ordinance stipulates more than 10,000 yen ($62) per hour is paid to each member who has to dive while on duty or for training, depending on the depth. The suspected misconduct, believed to have become normal practice among dozens of MSDF members, may have spanned years, the source said.

Defense Minister Minoru Kihara said at a press conference that his ministry is investigating the case and will take strict action based on the facts that come to light, adding that the MSDF “must not” do anything that could raise doubt among the public.

On Friday, meanwhile, Kihara instructed the launch of a special investigation into the alleged use of slush funds by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. to provide money and goods to MSDF submarine crew members under the guise of transactions with subcontractors.

The special investigation is carried out independently by the Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance, headed by a former prosecutor.