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Defense minister apologizes for referencing SDF in campaigning

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada made her first public apology on
Friday for her remark earlier this week that implied the Self-Defense
Forces' support for a candidate in the upcoming Tokyo metropolitan
assembly election.

"I take back my mention of the Defense Ministry, SDF and defense
minister and offer my apologies," she said at a press conference,
reiterating her intention of staying on in the role amid opposition
calls for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to dismiss her.

Opposition parties have said her remark is at odds with the
SDF's legal requirement to be politically neutral. It also seems
incompatible with an election law banning public servants from asking
for votes by using their positions.

The furor over Inada has come at a bad time for the Liberal
Democratic Party, to which she belongs, as it faces a potential
dethroning in Sunday's election as the largest party in the Tokyo
assembly by a new group led by Gov. Yuriko Koike.

In a stump speech Tuesday, Inada asked voters to support an LDP
candidate, saying the request came from "the Defense Ministry, the
SDF, the defense minister and the LDP." She took back the "remark
that could invite misunderstanding" later that night, but did not
offer an apology at the time.

"I have absolutely no intention of using my status to carry out
election activities," Inada said Friday. "I will perform my duties as
defense minister with a higher sense of alertness to protect our
territory at sea and in the air, in the severe security environment
enveloping our country."

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has told Inada he wants her to remain
in her role. He made her defense minister in August last year. (June 30)