Photo/IllutrationNew Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera answers a question from an opposition lawmaker over an alleged cover-up during an out-of-session meeting of the Upper House’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Aug. 10. (Takeshi Iwashita)

Zero progress was made in Diet meetings about the cover-up of Ground Self-Defense Force daily logs in South Sudan because the ruling party refused to summon four key players.

The contentious issue was whether former Defense Minister Tomomi Inada was aware that daily activity report data regarding the peacekeeping mission were kept by GSDF personnel despite the ministry denying their existence.

But Inada, who stepped down on July 28 over the scandal, was notable by her absence from the Diet meetings Aug. 10. And Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who appointed her to the post, was also not to be seen.

Former administrative Vice Defense Minister Tetsuro Kuroe and Gen. Toshiya Okabe, former chief of staff of the GSDF, also failed to show up for the Diet meetings.

The two were responsible for deciding not to disclose the reports despite knowing of their existence at the GSDF, according to a recent finding by the Defense Ministry’s special investigation into the cover-up.

The probe, conducted by the ministry’s Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance (IGO), concluded that Inada did not either approve or decide a policy regarding the disclosure of the information.

But the IGO findings, released on July 28, did not rule out the possibility that “some sort of mention was made about the existence of the data of the daily reports” with regard to Feb. 13 and 15 meetings of ministry senior officials, including Inada.

New Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera insisted on the validity of the IGO's conclusion when answering questions from opposition lawmakers in the Aug. 10 meetings.

“Opinions are divided over (whether Inada’s subordinates) briefed her (on the existence of the daily logs),” he said. “Those who ‘denied’ reporting to her (about them) were consistent in their categorical assertions. Those who said they ‘may have reported’ to her were ambiguous in their claims, changing their stories several times.”

Opposition legislators also inquired about a media report that said a handwritten memo existed relating to the content of the Feb. 13 discussion, suggesting Inada was involved in the cover-up.

The memo reportedly purported that Inada said, “I don’t know what I should say tomorrow (in the Diet),” indicating she knew the logs were at the GSDF.

But an official with the IGO stopped short of clarifying the issue.

“We would like to refrain from elaborating on documents we have,” the official said.