18 March 2017

News Story: Defense Ministry 'suits' ordered S. Sudan peacekeeping report status be hidden - source

Defense Ministry bureaucrats ordered the Self-Defense Forces (SDF)'s Joint Staff Office not to publicly reveal it had copies of daily reports from Japanese peacekeepers in South Sudan, a ministry source has told the Mainichi Shimbun.

The Japanese unit in South Sudan uploads daily status reports to the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF)'s Central Readiness Force (CRF) via a bulletin board on the GSDF command and control system. SDF personnel who had access to the reports had downloaded it within the GSDF.

The Defense Ministry initially stated in December last year that past reports had been "discarded and do not exist" after receiving a freedom-of-information request. Defense Minister Tomomi Inada ordered the ministry to look again. The Joint Staff Office, which is responsible for SDF unit operations including peacekeeping, confirmed late that month that it had digital copies of the reports, and the GSDF ascertained in mid-January that it, too, had the reports.

According to the Mainichi's ministry source, Chief of the Ground Staff Lt. Gen. Toshiya Okabe and other upper echelon GSDF officers were informed that the GSDF had digital versions of the reports. However, the source says "the suits" -- as SDF personnel refer to defense ministry bureaucrats -- ordered the Joint Staff Office not to reveal that copies of the reports existed. The order to hide the information appears likely to be an attempt to avoid contradicting the ministry's previous decision not to release the reports because they ostensibly did not exist.

Read the full story at The Mainichi