References to Japan PM, wife and finance minister removed from documents related to suspected scandal
Questions over the sale of state-owned land at a huge discount to a school operator with ties to Abe’s wife, Akie, have dogged Abe since the matter became public last year.
Abe, now in his sixth year in office, has denied he or his wife did favors for the school operator Moritomo Gakuen and has said he would resign if evidence were found that they had.
Suspicions of a cover-up could slash Abe’s ratings and dash his hopes of a third term as leader of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Victory in the LDP September leadership vote would put him on track to become Japan’s longest-serving premier.
Aso told a news conference on Monday that several officials at his ministry’s division in charge of the sale were involved in altering the documents to make them conform with testimony in parliament by the then-head of the division.
Opposition parties have called for Aso, who doubles as deputy premier and is key to Abe’s re-election hopes, to resign.
The 77-year-old Aso apologized for his ministry’s actions but said he had no intention to resign.
“It’s extremely regrettable and I apologize for this,” Aso told reporters, when asked whether he felt responsible.
Opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano said key questions remained. “We have to question everything thoroughly and strictly – what was the reason, who ordered it?,” Edano told reporters. “What about the multiple explanations in parliament – did they diverge from the truth?”
The risk now for Aso and Abe, experts said, is that the suspected cover-up does more damage than the land sale itself.
“The cover-up is now a bigger issue than the original incident,” said Koichi Nakano, a professor at Sophia University.
A finance ministry official said that 14 items had been altered in the documents after February — when the scandal broke – at the instruction of the ministry’s finance division to match testimony in parliament.
— polarbear (@polarbear_2017) 2018年3月12日
— نونيNoni (@NoniNNNN) 2018年3月12日
ロイターが世界に安倍首相の森友関与を報じた。related to suspected scandalだ。関与と書いてある。安倍首相「関与」してたら首相も議員もやめると言ったよ。
References to Japan PM, wife and finance minister removed from documents related to suspected scandal https://t.co/16xCNwA8La
— 土居豊 (@urazumi) 2018年3月12日
References to Japan PM, wife and finance minister removed from documents related to suspected scandal https://t.co/3FOfNmW4qu
— 非臣民 (@hishimmin) 2018年3月12日