Japan's Defense Ministry said Tuesday a case of sexual harassment occurred last year in the Maritime Self-Defense Force, with the male perpetrator made to apologize to the female victim in person despite her refusal to meet with him.

The news of the incident and how it was mishandled comes in the wake of a separate sexual abuse case committed in the Ground Self-Defense Force against former member Rina Gonoi, which prompted the ministry to hold an internal probe and increase its efforts toward addressing harassment.

Defense Minister Minoru Kihara holds a press conference in Tokyo on Oct. 31, 2023. (Kyodo) 

The meeting between the victim and the perpetrator, ordered by the offender's superior, "lacked sympathy for the victim's feelings and was outrageous. We will take stern action," Defense Minister Minoru Kihara told a press conference.

The harassment took place from August to December 2022 and involved the perpetrator hugging the woman, who was his colleague at an MSDF unit in western Japan, from behind and making sexual comments, according to the ministry's investigative report.

The victim, who was of a lower rank than the perpetrator, consulted her direct superior about the issue, but the unit's No. 2 failed to immediately report it to senior authorities, the report said.

Another member reported the case in December after speaking with the woman, and a superior made the perpetrator apologize to her on Dec. 20, according to the report.

The victim subsequently quit as an MSDF member. She has said she left the MSDF because she could not forgive what had happened, nor the way her superior handled it, the ministry said.

Kihara said he instructed all SDF units on Monday to respond to harassment allegations seriously, adding, "We will create an environment that never tolerates harassment."

The latest case took place amid the ministry holding a special investigation into various forms of harassment, which was launched after Gonoi made the rare move of coming forward in June last year to expose the sexual offenses she was subjected to while serving as a GSDF member.

The probe covered all SDF units and was conducted from September 2022 to August this year, with the ministry receiving over 1,300 reports of abuses of power, as well as sexual and other forms of harassment.

In Gonoi's case, the Defense Ministry dishonorably discharged five SDF members.

Photo taken on June 15, 2020, shows the headquarters of Japan's Defense Ministry in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

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