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Cabinet Office official denies mention of 'prime minister's will' in school project docs

A Cabinet Office official has taken issue with an education ministry document mentioning the "will" of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in connection with plans by an Okayama-based educational institution headed by a close friend of the prime minister to set up a new veterinary department.

Kake Educational Institution plans to set up the department in one of the government's national strategic special economic zones. It would be the first new veterinary department in Japan in over 50 years.

Two recently uncovered single-page A4-sized documents are purported to record exchanges on the issue between the Cabinet Office and the education ministry in September and October 2016. One of them, titled "Cabinet Office's response to the minister's items for confirmation," mentions the timing of setting up the veterinary department and says, "We have heard that this is the will of the prime minister."

A ministry source told the Mainichi Shimbun that Cabinet Office official Yutaka Fujiwara was in charge of this issue. Speaking on the timing of setting up the veterinary department during a meeting of the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on May 18, Fujiwara, who is in charge of national strategic special economic zones, stated, "The Cabinet Office has made absolutely no mention of 'the prime minister's will' (to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)."

A separate document titled "Outline of 10/7 statements of Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary (Koichi) Hagiuda," purportedly lists an exchange between Hagiuda and a senior education ministry official, in which Hagiuda is said to have stated, "I will arrange this." To this, Hagiuda commented, "I doubt the credibility of the document." Regarding the stated timing of October last year, he said, "I can't confirm it. There's a possibility the official schedule (records) have been discarded."

Education minister Hirokazu Matsuno announced at a May 19 press conference the launch of a team to probe the ministry documents.

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