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2010年12月24日 (金)

外交文書公開 隠し事はまだあった

(Mainichi Japan) December 23, 2010
More than meets the eye in declassified diplomatic documents
社説:外交文書公開 隠し事はまだあった

Declassified diplomatic documents covering Japan-U.S. negotiations on the 1972 reversion of Okinawa have raised suggestions that the ministry covered up details of its secret accords.

An examination conducted by an experts' panel set up by the Foreign Ministry had clarified part of the Japan-U.S. secret agreement on the reversion of Okinawa to Japan's sovereignty. However, the declassified documents recently released by the Foreign Ministry shed light on larger part of the accord -- they were not covered by the panel's examination.

In May, the Foreign Ministry put into effect regulations requiring declassification of virtually all of its official documents 30 years from the time they were compiled. This time, the third round of disclosure, 291 files, including 56 regarding Okinawa, were disclosed.

Among the documents is one suggesting that the Japanese and U.S. governments plotted to ensure that a conservative candidate would win the first election of governor of the Ryukyu government under U.S. rule. Another shows Tokyo and Washington played a tug-of-war over the wording of an agreement to include the Senkaku Islands in the Okinawa islands to be returned to Japan's sovereignty.

More surprisingly, a memorandum showing that three confidential telegrams were incinerated was found in a file of documents on the Japan-U.S. secret agreement. Under the secret agreement, Japan footed the 4 million dollars required to restore land vacated by U.S. military facilities in Okinawa to its original state, even though such costs should have been borne by the United States.

Furthermore, an entry in the handwritten index of the file titled, "Document 1 -- the leak of confidential information on Okinawa reversion talks" has been crossed out and the text of the document is missing although its cover is still kept in the file. A new typed index of the file does not even list the document.

The Foreign Ministry states that it does not know how the ministry managed documents 40 years ago, and the memorandum does not show what kind of telegrams were incinerated.

If the telegrams were incinerated in order to destroy evidence of the secret pact, it would be an outrageous act that could betray the public's trust in the government. Questions also remain as to why the document showing that Japan footed the 4 million dollars was not found in the ministry's earlier investigation into the case.

The declassified documents include one backing up another secret agreement under which Japan shouldered 65 million dollars to renovate and relocate U.S. military facilities in Okinawa -- in addition to the 320 million dollars stated in the official agreement on Okinawa's reversion. The document details a dialogue in which an official of the ministry's First North America Division and an official of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo discussed the issue.

These findings obviously support assertions the experts' panel made in a report submitted to the ministry in March that negotiations on the expenses of the Okinawa reversion lack transparency.

The ministry is set to disclose approximately 22,000 files of documents that are still being withheld even though more than 30 years have passed since they were compiled. It is hoped that the details of how Japan footed the expenses of the Okinawa reversion, which is shrouded in mystery, will be clarified in the process of disclosing these documents.

Enthusiasm that the Foreign Ministry has recently shown about disclosing diplomatic documents should be appreciated to a certain extent, but the method of disclosure should be improved. Many members of the public have complained that declassified documents are accessible only at the ministry's Diplomatic Record Office in Tokyo, and that it takes a long time and costs too much money to make photocopies of documents. The ministry should take measures to improve the convenience of accessing such documents.


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