U.S. urges signing of bilateral treaty for exchanging crime information

Visiting U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft urged Japan on Monday to accelerate efforts to sign a bilateral treaty designed to facilitate bilateral exchanges of information on criminal investigations, government officials said.

In meetings with Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama, Ashcroft lauded Japan’s ongoing effort to crack down on international terrorism, such as through its ratification of the U.N. Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

He also reiterated the need for the two governments to cooperate toward concluding a Japan-U.S. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.

Such a treaty would allow Japanese and U.S. investigative authorities to ask directly for and provide information on criminal investigations.

It would be the first treaty of its kind for Japan. The U.S. has entered into treaties of this type with 40 other nations, according to a Foreign Ministry official.

Investigators in Japan and the U.S. are currently required to exchange information via diplomatic channels such as embassies, the official said.

Kawaguchi told Ashcroft the government will try to sign the treaty as soon as possible and will submit relevant bills to the Diet during the regular session scheduled to convene in January.

The government plans to sign the treaty in November before introducing bills aimed at revising laws governing international investigative cooperation and punishment for organized crime.