Japan’s Abe faces fresh headache over Iraq troop dispatch logs

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government faced criticism on Thursday, after his defense minister said the army last year found activity logs from a controversial 2004 to 2006 deployment to Iraq, but had failed to report them to his predecessor.

FILE PHOTO: Japanese soldiers ride their armoured carriers while on patrol in Samawa, 270 km (160 miles) south of Baghdad December 28, 2005. REUTERS/Mohameed Ameen

The affair comes amid signs that declines in support for Abe might be bottoming out, with ratings of around 42 percent in two recent polls, after a suspected cronyism scandal and cover-up over the discounted sale of state-owed land.

Poor ratings could hurt Abe’s chances of winning a third term as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in a September vote that would position him to be Japan’s longest ruling premier, so long as his coalition controls parliament.

On Wednesday evening, Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera revealed that the Ground Self-Defense Force, as Japan’s army is known, had located the logs in March 2017 but failed to report them to his predecessor, Tomomi Inada, who had told parliament a month earlier that the records could not be found.

“I would like to report to parliament after strictly investigating whether this was a cover-up,” Onodera told an upper house parliamentary committee on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Japan’s Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera (C) arrives to inspect the Ground Self-Defense…

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