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New document in Kake scandal suggests Abe set 2018 deadline in school project

The new document unveiled by the education ministry. (Mainichi)

The education ministry on June 20 unveiled a new document indicating that a high-ranking Cabinet Office figure informed the ministry that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had set a deadline for the opening of a veterinary department that apparently worked in favor of a school operator headed by one of Abe's friends.

The document outlines comments purportedly made to the ministry by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda regarding plans by Kake Educational Institution to open the veterinary school in a national strategic special economic zone in Ehime Prefecture. Those plans are now the focus of an alleged favoritism scandal.

The document suggests that Hagiuda pressured the ministry to approve Kake Educational Institution's plans at an early date, saying, "The prime minister had set a deadline of April 2018 for the opening of the school. It was stated that he wanted to decide on a course of action in November this year (2016)."

Kake Educational Institution is specifically named in the document, indicating that the government's advisory council on special economic zones already had its eyes on the institution ahead of any approval of new vet school plans.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda (Mainichi)

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology says the document is "inaccurate and vague," while Hagiuda denies having made the statements the document indicates he expressed.

The document is titled "10/21 Outline of Statements by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hagiuda." The ministry says it was based on a meeting on Oct. 21 last year between Hagiuda and Yutaka Tokiwa, director-general of the ministry's Higher Education Bureau, and other information.

The document indicates that Hagiuda spoke with officials including Hiroto Izumi -- a special adviser to Abe -- regarding the establishment of a new veterinary department. It also indicates that Hagiuda pressed the education ministry to move ahead, saying that "Aide Izumi said that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has given its approval, but the education ministry alone has got cold feet. The prime minister's office says this is definitely going ahead."

On the premise that the school would be set up in the special strategic zone in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, the document quotes Hagiuda as stating, "Ehime Prefecture isn't happy about high-level veterinarians alone being trained, and wants existing veterinarians to be trained as well." It adds that Hagiuda had told the secretary-general of Kake Educational Institution to meet Atsuyuki Asano, director of the education ministry's Technical Education Division.

According to the education ministry, when it checked with Hagiuda about the statements listed in the document, he denied having made them. An aide to the head of the Technical Education Division is said to have explained that the aide created the document based on an explanation from the Higher Education Bureau director-general and other information including that from other ministries and agencies.

In a news conference on June 20, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said of the new document, "I've received a report that the deputy chief Cabinet secretary did not make such statements." He added, "If anything is pointed out to the government, we want to sincerely fulfill our responsibility to explain it on each occasion."

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