Satoshi Tanaka, former Okinawa Defense Bureau director-general, was suspended from work for 40 days on Dec. 9 over his remark about rape during discussions about the relocation of a U.S. military base in Okinawa Prefecture.
The suspension is the third-heaviest disciplinary measure under the Self-Defense Forces Law, and it has raised complaints among Defense Ministry officials and SDF members that it was too harsh.
Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa said he will voluntarily return his salary as long as he remains at the post, while parliamentary senior vice minister of defense Shu Watanabe and two parliamentary vice ministers, Mitsu Shimojo and Hideo Jinpu, will return their salaries for one month on a voluntary basis.
The salary of Kimito Nakae, administrative vice minister of defense, was cut by one-30th for one month.
Tanaka was transferred to the National Institute for Defense Studies.
"The contents of his remark are inappropriate. It is a serious issue that will have an (adverse) effect on the relocation of the Futenma air station," Ichikawa said in a news conference on Dec. 9.
In an unofficial meeting with reporters in Naha on Nov. 28, Tanaka was asked why the government was delaying the release of an environment assessment report on relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
"Would you say, 'I will rape you,' before you rape someone?" Tanaka told the reporters.
After a local newspaper published the remark, Tanaka was dismissed from the post the following day amid outrage in the prefecture.
"(Tanaka's) remark has made it more difficult to relocate the Air Station Futenma. We considered the impact," said a high-ranking official of the Defense Ministry.
But others said the disciplinary measure against Tanaka was unreasonable or inappropriate, in light of punishments handed down in other cases.
The 40-day suspension was the same as the one given to the captain of the Maritime SDF submarine Nadashio that collided with a pleasure boat off Kanagawa Prefecture in 1988, killing 30 people.
And the captain of the MSDF's Aegis-equipped Atago destroyer that hit a small fishing boat off Chiba Prefecture in 2008, killing two fishermen, was given a 30-day suspension.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's administration plans to submit to the Okinawa prefectural government within this year the environmental assessment report concerning the planned relocation of the Futenma air station from Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago in the same prefecture. Submission of the report is necessary for the relocation.
Although Ichikawa will return his salary as defense minister, he will continue to receive about 1.3 million yen ($17,300) in monthly pay as a Diet member.
On Dec. 9, the Upper House, which is controlled by the opposition, passed a censure motion against Ichikawa.
However, Ichikawa said he plans to stay as defense minister.
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