Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on Tuesday stood by claims that his ministry did not conceal documents connected to the highly contentious missions conducted overseas by the Self-Defense Forces, despite accusations to the contrary.
Onodera was referring to documents central to a cover-up scandal last year that saw the Defense Ministry insist that the mission logs of the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), controversially deployed to Iraq more than 10 years ago, did not exist.
The Defense Ministry finally admitted Monday that it had found the logs, despite denying their existence to opposition parties in February last year.
Onodera said the documents were found as the ministry was taking steps to ensure that such a scandal would not reoccur.
The SDF's Ground Staff Office, according to the Defense Ministry, confirmed the existence of the Iraq logs by January, but did not inform the Joint Staff Office until Feb. 27, with Onodera himself not being informed until a month later.
Onodera said he will look into why the information of the records reached him so late, but maintained that collecting the logs from overseas and going over the "massive" amount of information on the GSDF's overseas missions had taken time.
Japan controversially, between January 2004 to July 2006, sent around 5,500 GSDF service people to Iraq to provide humanitarian support in Samawah in southern Iraq.
This marked the first time Japan deployed troops to a war-zone and the move drew nationwide condemnation for potentially thwarting the nation's war-renouncing Constitution.