Photo/IllutrationTadao Yanase, vice minister for international affairs at the industry ministry and former aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, answers questions from reporters on April 20. (Kazuhiro Nagashima)

A former aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will likely admit to meeting with officials of the Kake Educational Institution in 2015, two years before its veterinary science faculty project received government approval, sources said.

Abe has said he was unaware of the project until after it was approved, despite the fact that the institution is run by his close friend and that the prime minister’s executive secretary, Tadao Yanase, had apparently discussed the plan long before it was green-lit.

Documents related to the meeting on April 2, 2015, at the prime minister’s office reignited opposition parties’ accusations that Abe used his influence to accelerate government permission for the Kake institution to open the veterinary medicine faculty in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture.

The documents quoted Yanase as telling officials of the local governments and the Kake institution that the project is “a matter related to the prime minister.”

Opposition parties boycotted Diet debate after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party rejected their four-point demands submitted last month, including having Yanase testify as a sworn witness in the Diet.

But the LDP, eager to restart Diet deliberations on key policy issues, is set to give ground to the opposition by summoning Yanase to the Diet after next week, the sources said.

Yanase is expected to acknowledge the meeting with the Kake institution officials in those Diet proceedings, they said.

Kiyomi Tsujimoto, chief of the Diet Affairs Committee of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, indicated on May 2 that the opposition bloc would accept the LDP’s proposal to summon Yanase as an unsworn witness.

“Having him testify as a sworn witness would be best, but we are inclined to pursue what actually happened as soon as possible,” she said.

The opposition bloc will decide on the LDP’s expected proposition after May 7.

Abe has steadfastly denied any involvement in the approval process for the project. He also maintained that he only learned of the Kake institution’s plan on Jan. 20, 2017, when the project received government approval to open in a National Strategic Special Zone in Imabari.

It was the first veterinary science faculty to be approved in the nation in decades.

Yanase has denied meeting officials from the Ehime prefectural government and Imabari city government.

“As far as I can recall, I have never met officials of Ehime Prefecture and Imabari city,” Yanase, who has returned to the industry ministry as a senior bureaucrat, said in a statement released on April 10.

His admission that he met Kake institution officials at the meeting will not “contradict” his past statements, senior LDP officials said.

“When Yanase met with the Kake officials, it is possible that officials from the Ehime and Imabari governments were also present,” one of the LDP officials said.

However, confirmation that Yanase did talk with officials of the education institute will likely fuel the opposition bloc’s attack on Abe’s statement that he had no knowledge of the project.

A recently revealed document produced by officials with the Ehime government mentioned the April 2 meeting, as well as Yanase’s promotion of the project.

Yanase denied saying such words. But another document with similar content was later discovered at the agriculture ministry.

In April, the education ministry found an e-mail sent by a Cabinet Office worker that mentions a scheduled meeting on April 2, 2015, between Yanase and prefectural and other officials.