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Deputy Japan gov't spokesman involved in science council rejection decision: source

Kazuhiro Sugita

TOKYO -- Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita was involved in the preliminary decision to deny the appointment of six scholars to the Science Council of Japan prior to the official rejection by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, a government source revealed on Oct. 12.

    An uproar erupted after the prime minister refused to appoint six scholars to the Science Council of Japan -- an organization that makes policy recommendations to the government -- who had been nominated by the council.

    Sugita was involved in paring down the list of 105 nominees that the science council submitted to the government to 99 by removing six scholars, and had reported on this process to the prime minister. It is unknown whether Prime Minister Suga was involved in the preliminary removal of the six scholars from the list.

    In an Oct. 12 press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato revealed that the list of 105 nominees that Suga said he had not seen had been attached for reference to a document that required his authorization.

    In an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun and other media outlets, Suga had unequivocally stated that he had not seen the list of 105 nominees that included the six nominees that he refused to appoint, which the science council had submitted to the government. He told reporters that shortly before he approved the appointments, he saw a list of 99 nominees that did not include the six denied scholars and explained, "At that point, the list only had the names of all the scholars who ultimately became members of the council."

    When asked about this remark and the fact that the list of 105 nominees was attached for reference when Suga gave his approval, Kato said, "On the document given to the prime minister for approval, the nominee list (of 105 people) was attached for reference. I believe (the prime minister) was saying that he did not look closely at the attached document. The thinking behind appointments had been explained to the prime minister before it came down to him making the final decision."

    Kato then divulged that Suga had also been given an explanation for the government's plan to deny the appointment of six scholars, and said, "The prime minister approved the appointment of scholars based on the nominations (by the science council)." He emphasized, "The procedures are lawful." As for whether there were instructions to do so by Suga, Kato stated, "It is a personnel-related decision, so I will refrain from discussing any details."

    Head of the Japanese Communist Party's secretariat, Akira Koike, told an Oct. 12 news conference, "How could the prime minister make a big-picture personnel decision without seeing the list of 105 people? If it turns out that someone other than the prime minister removed the six scholars from the list, it would mean that a huge conspiracy took place within the prime minister's office. It could only be characterized as an illegal authorization."

    Opposition parties are poised to pursue the case further.

    (Japanese original by Kei Sato, Political News Department)

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