5 SDF Members Disciplined for Leaking Specially Designated Secrets; Kihara: “I Take the Cases Very Seriously”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Defense Minister Minoru Kihara speaks at a press conference at the Defense Ministry on Friday.

Two cases of leaking specially designated secrets, or classified security information, were detected within the Ground and Maritime Self-Defense Forces, Defense Minister Minoru Kihara said on Friday.

The Defense Ministry took disciplinary action on Friday against the five SDF members involved with suspension or pay cuts.

“I take the cases very seriously,” Kihara said at a press conference following the Cabinet meeting Friday morning. “I have ordered the Defense Ministry to check whether there are any similar cases throughout the ministry.”

Kihara added that no information leaks outside of the SDF had been detected.

Specially designated secrets cover 23 information elements in four fields — defense, diplomacy, anti-espionage and antiterrorism measures — specified under the Law on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, which was enacted in 2014. According to sources provided by the Cabinet Secretariat, the defense, foreign affairs and other ministries have designated 751 pieces of classified information as specially designated secrets. SDF members who can handle such secrets are only those who have passed an aptitude screening on their criminal record, financial situation and other aspects of their lives. Leaks of the secrets are subject to criminal penalties.

According to Friday’s announcement, senior MSDF officials who served as captains of the escort vessel Inazuma for about 60 days from June 2022 to January 2023 assigned an MSDF member, who was not qualified to handle specially designated secrets, to work at the ship’s combat information center (CIC), where the member was exposed to information on ship wakes of vessels, which are a specially designated secret.

The senior MSDF officials told the member to work at the CIC without checking whether he had gone through the aptitude screening to handle such information. The member lacked knowledge of the law and mistakenly believed that he could handle specially designated secrets. Those in charge of secrets aboard Inazuma also neglected to check his qualification status.

In February, the escort vessel made inquiries about the member to the Maritime Staff Office, and the information leak came to light. The MSDF took disciplinary action against three officials, including a captain in his 40s who was suspended for six days and two commanders, also in their 40s, who were docked two months’ pay.

In July last year, a GSDF lieutenant colonel from the GSDF’s Northern Army based in Sapporo told 15 GSDF members during a drill specially designated secrets about the SDF activities in times of emergencies, even though those members were not supposed to know such secrets.

When investigated by the ministry, the lieutenant colonel said that the lieutenant colonel told the secrets to the members because they wanted to boost the morale of the members and did so without much consideration.

The ministry suspended the lieutenant colonel from work for six days.