MICHELE NORRIS, host:
This week, the Japanese government said that previous administrations had lied to the Japanese people for decades about U.S. nuclear weapons. A government-appointed panel confirmed the existence of secret Cold War-era agreements that allowed the U.S. to bring nuclear weapons into the country. And that is a violation of Japan's non-nuclear policies.
NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing.
ANTHONY KUHN: Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada on Tuesday put an end to decades of official denials by admitting that there were secret agreements. But he was vague on the question of whether U.S. nuclear-armed vessels actually entered the country.
Foreign Minister KATSUYA OKADA (Japan): (Foreign language spoken)
KUHN: We have never been able to categorically assert that no nuclear weapons were brought into Japan, he said. I believe it is impossible to completely eliminate such suspicions.
But this was no longer an issue, he said, because the U.S. ordered its ships and planes to stop carrying tactical nuclear weapons in 1991. He has previously noted that the U.S. had already declassified documents proving the pacts existed. The point of the panel's investigation, Okada said, was to restore the public's trust in Japan's diplomacy.
In Washington on Tuesday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley made no mention of Japan's non-nuclear policies and said the investigation was a Japanese affair.
Mr. P.J. CROWLEY (Spokesman, State Department): I don't think that it's going to significantly affect cooperation between the United States and Japan. You know, we understand the special sentiment of the Japanese people with regard to nuclear weapons, and we have faithfully honored our obligations under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security and will continue to do so.
KUHN: Since taking power last August, the Democratic Party of Japan has begun to overhaul half a century of Liberal Democratic Party policies. The investigation into the secret pacts is one of these efforts.
Hans Kristensen is director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C. He says that during the Cold War, Japan faced a tough choice between seeking national security under the U.S. nuclear umbrella and telling the public the truth.
Mr. HANS KRISTENSEN (Director, Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American Scientists): It chose to be economical with the truth.
KUHN: That choice left a legacy of mistrust, which still complicates the ongoing issue of reducing the U.S. military's footprint on Japan. Kristensen says that admitting the secret agreements should strengthen, not weaken, the U.S.-Japan alliance.
Mr. KRISTENSEN: I think it's in the interest of both nations to sort of open up the books on this and try to just clean out the skeletons from the Cold War closet.
KUHN: The investigation's findings confirm what many Japanese already knew. Among them is former Mainichi Daily reporter Takichi Nishiyama. He remembers the day in 1972 he obtained a Foreign Ministry document that proved the existence of a clandestine deal.
Mr. TAKICHI NISHIYAMA (Former Reporter, Mainichi Daily): (Through translator) This was clearly a violation of the constitution and a political act that should never have been committed. I was both shocked and angered to see this.
KUHN: Nishiyama's scoop could have become Japan's Watergate. Instead, Nishiyama was convicted of illegally getting the document via his relationship with a female Foreign Ministry secretary. The Japanese media did not pursue the story, and Nishiyama was forced to quit his job.
Mr. NISHIYAMA: (Through translator) I don't believe that I did anything illegal. The things I was accused of were my own personal matters and had nothing to do with any crime. I should have the freedom to conduct interviews as part of my work.
KUHN: Nishiyama is now 79 and still fighting in court to clear his name.
Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.
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