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Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007
SHUTTING THE SCANDAL SPIGOT
Panel looks to clean up Defense Ministry
By MASAMI ITO
Hoping to put an end to a raft of scandals, the government held the first meeting Monday of a panel on reforming the Defense Ministry.
"The public must be wondering why (so many scandals have occurred)," Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told reporters. "Over the past several years, there have been repeated (scandals) . . . including those related to procurements and information leaks."
The latest scandal involves the arrest of former Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya on bribery charges.
Machimura told the panel it has three objectives — to ensure thorough civilian control of the military, to establish a system to keep intelligence and confidential information secure, and to increase the transparency of defense procurement procedures.
The panel, chaired by Nobuya Minami, former president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., includes Machimura and Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba from the government, as well as academics and former defense officials.
Last week, Machimura said he wants the panel to submit an interim report in February. However, Minami said the panel has not discussed a timeline yet.
"We realize that we must come up with an answer as soon as possible in this limited period of time," Minami said after the meeting. "Personally, I think we should think about (the limit) as February or March, just like the prime minister originally told us."
According to Machimura, the Defense Ministry also has two panels studying internal reforms.
"(I think) it is necessary (for the Defense Ministry) to hold discussions from a technical and specialist point of view," Machimura said. "But based on the internal discussions, (I hope the government panel) will work closely with the ministry and consider the situation from a wider spectrum to (investigate) why" such scandals repeatedly occur.
Ishiba declined comment after the meeting.
Just last week, Moriya, who was forced to retire as vice defense minister in August, was arrested on suspicion of receiving bribes from defense equipment trader Motonobu Miyazaki, who was also recently taken into custody.
Moriya was arrested along with his wife, Sachiko, for allegedly taking bribes worth ¥3.98 million in the form of golf outing perks from Miyazaki from August 2003 to May 2006 while he was still vice defense minister.
The ministry was also allegedly involved in widespread procurement bid-rigging and other misdeeds.
The Kanagawa Prefectural Police and the Maritime Self-Defense Force's criminal investigation bureau are meanwhile investigating a leak of classified data on the Aegis defense system that came to light in March.
In September, the ministry admitted it had incorrectly announced that about 760,000 liters of fuel was provided to a U.S. warship four years ago. This was later corrected to about 3.04 million liters.
Even though some ministry officials were aware of the mistake, it was not reported to the ministry's top brass and this resulted in both the defense minister and chief Cabinet secretary at the time both using the incorrect figure in Diet statements.