Source AP ©

Japan's finance minister to testify in defense contract scandal

Japan's parliament will summon the finance minister to give answers in a defense contract scandal that has crippled the government of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

Fukushiro Nukaga, who twice served as Japan's defense chief before becoming finance minister, will be called as a sworn witness next week by a committee of the parliament's upper house.

Opposition lawmakers, who control the upper chamber, pushed through the measure after the ruling coalition refused to attend the committee session, according to footage posted on the parliament's Web site.

The committee also summoned former Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya to take the stand with Nukaga on Dec. 3.

Earlier Tuesday, reports said Tokyo prosecutors were preparing to question Moriya over an alleged bribery case involving defense contractor executive Motonobu Miyazaki, who has been arrested on embezzlement charges.

Kyodo News Agency, citing unnamed persons close to the Tokyo prosecutors, later reported that Moriya was likely to face arrest on Wednesday in the case.

The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan has alleged that Nukaga also had ties with Moriya and Miyazaki, and that he met the two last year at a dinner in Tokyo. Nukaga denied Tuesday he was at the dinner.

Moriya, who retired in August, has admitted he was treated to golf and other gifts by Miyazaki, formerly a senior official at defense equipment trading company Yamada Yoko Corp. Miyazaki also gave Moriya 200,000 yen (US$1,845; 1,245 EUR) in cash as a birthday gift, according to news reports.

The Democrats allege that Moriya gave preferential treatment in bidding for defense contracts to the company and to Nihon Mirise Corp., a trading house Miyazaki founded after leaving Yamada.

Moriya has denied giving out favors in exchange for his gifts.

The defense scandal has crippled Fukuda's work in the country's parliament, including a bill to renew Japan's anti-terror naval mission in support of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

Japanese ships returned earlier this week from the Indian Ocean, ending a six-year mission after opposition parties blocked an extension.

They argued that Japan should not participate in operations that do not have explicit support from the United Nations, and that the government should first clear up the defense scandal.

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