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Japan's scandal-hit defence chief announces resignation

Japan's Defence Minister Tomomi Inada is surrounded by the media as she leaves the Defence Ministry in Tokyo, Japan on July 27, 2017.

[TOKYO] Hawkish Japanese defence minister Tomomi Inada on Friday announced her resignation over a long-brewing scandal involving the handling of military documents, in a political blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"I decided to resign as defence minister," Ms Inada told a press conference at the defence ministry.

"I submitted my resignation to the prime minister and it was accepted."

Ms Inada, a close confidante of Mr Abe who shares his staunchly nationalist views, was appointed defence minister in August 2016, a time when she was touted as a possible future prime minister.

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But her nearly year-long stint has been characterised by repeated controversy, including increasing criticism of the ministry's handling of log reports filed by Japanese peacekeepers in South Sudan showing worsening security.

Mr Abe, who became prime minister for a second time in December 2012 with a vow to rejuvenate Japan's economy, has seen his popularity plummet in recent weeks due to scandals and gaffes by members of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), including Inada.

Mr Abe immediately apologised to the nation after Ms Inada's resignation.

"I apologise from the bottom of my heart to the people for this situation in which a minister resigns," he told reporters.