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Saturday, March 20, 2010
Nuke pact files may have been chucked
Ex-key diplomat testifies about missing documents
By MASAMI ITO
A former senior Foreign Ministry official testified Friday in the Diet that key documents related to the secret nuclear pacts between Japan and the U.S. that he had filed were missing, and suggested they were deliberately destroyed.
Kazuhiko Togo, a former Foreign Ministry Treaties Bureau chief, and three others were called to give unsworn testimony before the Diet.
This is the first time witnesses have been called to testify about the nuclear deals, which the government routinely denied existed until the Democratic Party of Japan last year ousted the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the new administration ordered a probe into the pacts.
The testimony follows a recent report compiled by a government panel that determined that three out of four alleged secret accords indeed existed, including one allowing port calls by U.S. ships carrying nuclear weapons without prior consultation, in violation of Japan's official nonnuclear principles.
While Togo was head of the bureau between 1998 and 1999, he said he had filed 58 documents and specially marked 16 as important. But out of the 16, half were not found, including a record of a meeting between Japanese and U.S. officials during which the U.S. explained its policy of not confirming the whereabouts of its nuclear arms.
"I have heard from a person who was thought to have been very familiar with the internal situation at the Foreign Ministry that some related documents were discarded before the information disclosure law took effect" in 2001, Togo told the Lower House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He didn't identify the source.
Since the end of World War II, there has been strong antinuclear sentiment in Japan.
In 1967, then Prime Minister Eisaku Sato announced Japan's three nonnuclear principles — not to possess, produce or allow the entry of nuclear weapons.
But the government panel indicated nuclear arms were likely brought into Japan in the past despite those principles, for which Sato was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974.
Togo said Friday that while he headed the Treaties Bureau, he was of the belief that atomic weapons were brought into Japan before 1991, when then-U.S. President George H.W. Bush announced tactical nuclear arms would be removed from U.S. warships.
But Togo declined comment on whether this view was commonly shared at the ministry.
"Japan had been caught in a bind — because of public sentiment, it could not accept such arms entering Japan, but it also needed to maintain the relationship with the U.S. over security," Togo said.
The U.S. and Japan "agreed to avoid pursuing the issue (of whether nuclear arms were brought into Japan) too far, and, as a result, Japan's security was guaranteed."
The three other witnesses were former Vice Foreign Minister Kunihiko Saito, former Lower House member Hajime Morita and former Mainichi Shimbun reporter Takichi Nishiyama, who was convicted of violating the public servant law by obtaining a confidential document from a ministry worker.
The document revealed a secret accord between Tokyo and Washington in 1972, under which Japan agreed to shoulder $4 million in costs related to the reversion of land plots to their owners in Okinawa.
Saito testified that he believed there was a "difference in understanding" between the U.S. and Japan over the introduction of nuclear weapons into Japan, but said the Foreign Ministry did not disclose the secret pacts to avoid damaging bilateral relations.
"It would not be good if by chance, (the disclosure) were to have a negative influence on the Japanese government or diplomacy," Saito said. "To put it in simple terms, I think we were too careful over the decision (to not disclose the pacts)."
Morita served as secretary to the late Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira, who was involved in the secret nuclear pact. He said Ohira had been worried about the secret nuclear pact problem.
Nishiyama has filed several lawsuits against the government to clear his name.
Murata dies at 80
Ryohei Murata, a former ambassador to the United States who recently played a key role in bringing to light the secret pacts between Tokyo and Washington, died of lung cancer at his home in Kyoto on Thursday afternoon, the Foreign Ministry said Friday. He was 80.
Murata, who also served as a vice foreign minister from 1987 to 1989, went public over the pacts last June, saying successive vice foreign ministers had been passing down documents on a secret nuclear pact reached with Washington during the Cold War.