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Tuesday, April 11, 2000

LDP's trail of deception uncovered


By YOKO HANI and TOSHI MAEDA
Staff writers

Still more lies by LDP members regarding the chain of events that led to former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi's replacement have emerged as Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki on Monday withdrew an earlier claim that Obuchi had ordered him to serve as acting prime minister.

Aoki also revealed that he was informed of the deterioration of Obuchi's condition and of his transfer to an intensive care unit before his emergency news conference at 11:30 p.m. on April 2, in which he merely announced that Obuchi was hospitalized and undergoing examination.

With the opposition bloc poised to attack the government's coverup of the seriousness of Obuchi's illness, Aoki could be forced to take responsibility, political observers said.

Aoki told a news conference Monday that he had interpreted Obuchi's words as meaning the former leader wanted him to serve as acting prime minister after he became too ill to continue.

"If something happens to me please make sure that everything goes all right," Aoki quoted Obuchi as telling him during Monday's Lower House plenary session.

Previously, Aoki had quoted Obuchi as ordering him to take over "by serving as acting prime minister" if it became medically necessary.

The top government spokesman had insisted that Obuchi had given him the instruction only an hour before he was moved to an intensive care unit on the evening of April 2.

He was alone with Obuchi at the time, Aoki had said.

"I said (that Obuchi had ordered me to take over as acting prime minister) because I interpreted the former prime minister's words that way," Aoki told reporters Monday, admitting that some of the information he had released was inaccurate.

The opposition camp was quick to criticize the LDP's opaque decision-making process.

"Five Liberal Democratic Party leaders, including Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, took advantage of the former prime minister's unconscious state, invented his instructions and continued lying in an attempt to make the story sound plausible," the DPJ's policy research council deputy chairman, Yukio Edano, told the Lower House.

Muneyuki Shindo, a Rikkyo University professor in political science, said the incident has revealed Japan's absence of legal preparation for a state of emergency involving the nation's top leader.

"Japan has no legal rules stipulating steps that the government must follow when the prime minister is in a crisis," he said. "What if Mr. Obuchi makes a marvelous recovery and comes back to the Diet, asking 'When did you get my approval?' "



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