Under direct orders from the new administration, Foreign Ministry officials launched a comprehensive investigation Friday into secret pacts with the United States, including an accord to allow entry of U.S. ships and aircraft carrying nuclear arms into Japan.
A team of 15 bureaucrats, who will be working under Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka, will look into 2,694 files related to the peace treaty between Japan and the U.S., 571 files related to the reversion of Okinawa and approximately 400 files stored at the Japanese Embassy in Washington.
“We will be reporting the results of the investigation by the end of November,” the ministry said in a statement.
On the day of his appointment as foreign minister last week, Okada announced he ordered Yabunaka to file a comprehensive report on the secret Japan-U.S. pacts. Okada has been adamant about disclosing the documents, saying it will help the government build trust with the public.
The Democratic Party of Japan has pledged to improve government transparency and review military ties with the U.S.
Okada has said he won’t hesitate to call back ministry officials working overseas if that will help the team get to the bottom of the agreements.
“The ministry should see this opportunity as a chance” to come clean, he said last week in an interview, adding that blame for any concealment of information will rest at the top with past prime ministers and foreign ministers.
Bureaucrats, he said, will not face any punishment.
In addition to the secret agreement on stopovers by vessels and planes carrying nuclear weapons, the team will seek to find evidence on three other pacts.
The veiled documents include an agreement for Japan to shoulder $4 million of the cost of Okinawa’s reversion to Japan, an accord to allow nuclear weapons to enter Okinawa during emergency situations and the use of U.S. bases in Japan in the event of a crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
While documents in the U.S. and statements by former Foreign Ministry officials confirm these deals, their existence has been denied by successive Liberal Democratic Party administrations.
This is because such accords contradict Japan’s stated principles of never possessing or producing nuclear weapons, or allowing them into the country.
Some analysts say that denying the existence of the secret pacts benefited Japan’s security by serving as a deterrent, especially during the Cold War.
But statements by former Vice Foreign Minister Ryohei Murata in June confirming the pact on nuclear arms altered even the position of some LDP members, including Taro Kono, who is now running for president of the party.
“I think the secret pact exists,” he said during a debate with other candidates last week.
Meanwhile U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell has said Washington will not add to the controversy, telling reporters last week that documents already released in the U.S. “speak for themselves.”