Ministers may miss APEC meeting

Japan may not send a minister to an upcoming meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Mexico because the trade and foreign ministers are expected to be busy with an extraordinary Diet session, officials said Friday.

It would be the first time a Japanese minister has not attended the annual ministerial conference since APEC was launched in 1989.

Senior vice ministers of trade and foreign affairs are likely to attend the Oct. 23-24 meeting in Los Cabos in place of Takeo Hiranuma, economy, trade and industry minister, and Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, the officials said.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, however, will take part in the APEC summit Oct. 26 and 27, as he is expected to hold a three-way meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung on the sidelines to discuss North Korean issues, they said.

The Diet is unlikely to allow Hiranuma and Kawaguchi to travel overseas because they are both required to explain key political issues.

“It is certainly getting very difficult in light of Diet schedules,” said Hiranuma, who had been expected to head the delegation.

Hiranuma is likely be questioned in connection with a scandal in which Tokyo Electric Power Co. covered up damage at nuclear reactors.

Kawaguchi is expected to face questions over recent developments related to North Korea following Koizumi’s landmark visit to Pyongyang on Sept. 17, during which North Korea admitted having abducted Japanese nationals.