Source AP ©

Japanese ex-defense official confirms "inappropriate" ties with defense equipment company

A former Japanese defense official said Monday there were "inappropriate" ties with a defense equipment company, but denied trading favors for gifts.

The scandal surrounding former Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya has contributed to the fall in popularity of the new government and complicated its efforts to extend a naval mission to refuel U.S. warships in the Indian Ocean.

Moriya, who retired in August, said he played golf "more than 200 times" in over 11 years with a former senior official of Yamada Corp., a defense equipment trading company.

He said that his wife often accompanied him on golf outings, and that he allowed the company to pick up most of the golfing fees, only paying about US$100 (EUR70) a time - an unusually low figure in Japan.

Defense officials are banned from having contacts with stakeholders under Japanese law, and Moriya said he now believes it was "extremely inappropriate" for him to have had such ties.

However, under heated questioning, he flatly denied doing any favors for Yamada in procurement matters.

"There was absolutely none," he said.

Moriya also said he felt "deeply remorseful over my responsibility" for creating a possible obstacle to the government's efforts to renew the refueling mission, which expires Nov. 1.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has been pushing to extend the mission in the face of strong parliamentary opposition.

The opposition bloc argues the mission involves Tokyo too deeply in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in violation of Japan's pacifist constitution, and has vowed to defeat it.

Fukuda's predecessor, Shinzo Abe, was brought down in September under the accumulated weight of several scandals, and Moriya's case - which has received wide play in local media - is likely to complicate the prime minister's efforts.

The government gave the mission's critics additional fodder when it acknowledged earlier this month that it had mistakenly reported providing 750,000 liters (about 200,000 gallons) of fuel to a U.S. warship when it had actually provided 3 million liters (800,000 gallons).

In a report submitted last week to the ruling and opposition parties, the Defense Ministry acknowledged that officials were aware of the mistake back in 2003, but did not disclose it, according to defense officials.

The blunder concerns the refueling of a single warship in February 2003, and has been trumpeted by the opposition.

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