Japan defense minister quits amid plunging support for PM

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Embattled Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said on Friday she was resigning, after a series of gaffes, missteps and a cover-up at her ministry that have contributed to a sharp plunge in public support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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Inada, an Abe protege who had been seen as a possible future premier, was expected to be replaced in a cabinet reshuffle next week that Abe hopes will repair his ratings.

His support has sunk below 30 percent in some polls, hit by scandals over suspected cronyism and the view of many voters that he was taking them for granted.

But Inada’s resignation comes too late, critics said. It coincides with the release of a report on an investigation into whether defense ministry officials tried to hide logs showing worsening security in South Sudan, where Japanese troops participated in a controversial U.S.-led peacekeeping operation.

Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Clarence Fernandez