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Friday, Aug. 8, 2008

CABINET INTERVIEW

China wanted poisonings hushed up, Komura admits


Staff writer

At Beijing's request, Japan refrained from divulging that China suffered a food poisoning outbreak from pesticide-tainted "gyoza" dumplings made by the same firm whose frozen gyoza sickened people in Japan, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura admitted Thursday.

News photo
Masahiko Komura SATOKO KAWASAKI PHOTO

"It is a fact that (the Foreign Ministry) was informed" of the incidents in China by early July, Komura admitted during an interview.

The Foreign Ministry had been criticized when media reports revealed Wednesday that it had sat on the information for a month, including that the pesticide in both nations' outbreaks was the same.

Frozen Chinese gyoza containing methamidophos caused food poisonings in Japan in December and January, which instigated investigations in both China and Japan. The two sides have been in disagreement over where the dumplings were contaminated with pesticide.

During the interview Thursday, Komura claimed China informed Japan of its domestic poisonings, from gyoza made by the same manufacturer, but asked the information to be withheld due to concerns over the ongoing investigation.

"We respected China's request to keep the information undisclosed," Komura said.

The foreign minister, a 28-year Lower House veteran who has also served as justice and defense minister, was reappointed to his post when Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda reshuffled his Cabinet on Aug. 1.

He said following his appointment that diplomatic issues "never really have a distinctive conclusion" and must be dealt with continuously.

These include North Korea's denuclearization and abduction issues, which reaches a crucial point next week as the hermit state becomes eligible to be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Japan and North Korea are also scheduled to hold a two-day bilateral talk beginning Monday in China.

Komura said during the interview Thursday that the government will continue its principle of "action for action," saying favors for North Korea will only be provided once Pyongyang carries out its denuclearization pledges.

He added that the North's handling of the Japanese abductees has been unacceptable and progress must be made in next week's talks.

Komura, who met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in India on Tuesday, also said Japan should extend the antiterrorism law to allow the Maritime Self-Defense Force to continue its refueling mission in the Indian Ocean that expires in January.



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