Vice foreign ministers had a “secret duty” to inform their foreign ministers of the clandestine Tokyo-Washington accord that has covered the handling of nuclear arms in Japan since 1960, a former vice foreign minister said Monday.
Ryohei Murata unveiled the details about the secret pact during a telephone interview in which he agreed to give up his anonymity in speaking about the accord, on which Kyodo News reported in late May.
Holding the ministry’s top bureaucratic post from 1987 to 1989, Murata, 79, is one of four former vice ministers cited in the May 31 report that said the accord has been controlled by top Foreign Ministry officials and only a handful of prime ministers and foreign ministers were told of it.
He also indicated his readiness to disclose the truth about the pact if summoned by the Diet, although he said, “I maintain positive feelings about the Foreign Ministry . . . so I would like to decline” to testify if not compelled to do so.
The Lower House Foreign Affairs Committee is considering summoning witnesses concerning the secret deal, the existence of which has been denied by the government although revealed by U.S. diplomatic documents declassified in the late 1990s.
Under the deal, which the two countries agreed on when revising the Japan-U.S. security treaty in 1960, Tokyo would tacitly approve the stopover of U.S. military aircraft or vessels carrying nuclear arms, although the treaty stipulates the need for Washington to hold prior consultations with Tokyo to bring atomic weapons into Japan.
Facing reporters Monday morning, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura reiterated the government’s position that such a secret pact “does not exist” and that nuclear weapons were not brought into Japan because prior consultations were never held.
Murata agreed to reveal himself as one of the sources after the Fukuoka-based Nishinippon Shimbun and other media on Sunday starting attributing reports about the pact to him.
In a March 18 interview with Kyodo in the city of Kyoto, Murata, on condition of anonymity, elaborated on how the secret was passed along to successive vice foreign ministers.
Revealing that a document recording the pact exists within the Foreign Ministry, Murata said, “I heard from my predecessor at the time (I became) vice minister that (an unpublicized) understanding exists between Japan and the United States concerning nuclear weapons, and turned it over to the next vice minister.
“It was a great secret. The Japanese government has been lying to its people,” Murata said.
In Monday’s interview, he said that when he was vice minister he notified foreign ministers of the time — Tadashi Kuranari and Sosuke Uno — about the pact, but not the prime minister.