Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has again defended his decision to reject some of the nominees for the Science Council of Japan, saying that it does not undermine the top academic body's independence.
Suga spoke at a Diet committee meeting on Friday about his refusal to appoint six nominees. His decision to break from the custom of appointing everyone recommended by the council has generated controversy.
Suga said on Thursday that when new members were appointed three years ago, the Cabinet Office and the council made adjustments before the official list of nominees was presented.
He also said such adjustments were not made this time, and it led to the six nominations being declined.
An opposition lawmaker accused the government of political interference, saying that its involvement in selecting members is unacceptable in light of a law governing the council.
Suga replied that "adjustments" means that the two sides had discussions to find common ground, adding that he is well aware that only the council can select nominees.
He said a prime minister is authorized to appoint members, and he doesn't think that exercising that power infringes on the independence of the council.
While he acknowledged that academic freedom is an extremely important right, he said a prime minister appoints council members as public servants.
He added that he doesn't think the issue has anything to do with the academic freedom of individuals.