Japan starts publishing minutes of cabinet meetings for first time in 129 years

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan on Tuesday started publishing minutes from cabinet meetings for the first time in the body's 129-year history, in an apparent bid to counter accusations of secrecy.

"We decided to disclose them in order to improve transparency and from the viewpoint of making us more accountable to the public," the government's chief spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

The official website of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday showed minutes from the April 1 meeting, marking the first time since the 1885 establishment of the cabinet that its business had been made public.

It was not immediately clear how extensive the minutes would be, nor what subjects or procedures would be redacted.

The move comes after the introduction last year of a much-criticised secrets law that sparked accusations that the government was curtailing press and public freedoms.

Mr Abe defended the bill as "necessary", insisting that it was a vital step to protect Japan and bring it into line with its allies.

The legislation, which vastly broadened the scope of information that ministers can designate as a state secret, was pushed through both chambers of parliament in just a month, thanks to the handsome majority Mr Abe commands in the two houses.

Supporters claimed Japan's notoriously leaky government machine needed to be plugged to help support the creation of a new US-style National Security Council, and to encourage ally Washington to share its secrets.

But journalists, lawyers, academics and rights groups said the law was illiberal and represented "the largest threat to democracy in postwar Japan".

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