TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada will resign, broadcaster NHK said on Thursday, after a series of missteps, gaffes and a suspected cover-up that critics say contributed to a plunge in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's support.

Inada, a conservative protege of Abe who was once floated as his possible successor, had already been expected to be replaced in a cabinet reshuffle planned for next month.

Inada in March launched a probe into media reports that defense officials had tried to hide logs showing worsening security in South Sudan, where Japanese troops were taking part in a UN-led peacekeeping operation. She has denied reports she was directly involved in the cover-up.

The report added that a former Japanese defense minister may be chosen to replace the embattled incumbent minister.

Kyodo news agency said Abe is likely to choose as her successor somebody who has already served in the post in an effort to project an image of stability as he battles a number of scandals.

According to Reuters, potential candidates include Itsunori Onodera, who served as defense minister for nearly two years from 2012, when Abe returned to power, and is widely regarded as a safe pair of hands for the job.