Hashimoto accepts lack of advance warning about attack

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said April 23 that he regrets Tokyo was not informed in advance of the rescue operation at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima, but added he “understands” the decision of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori.

Speaking at a news conference at his Official Residence, Hashimoto expressed gratitude to Fujimori after the Peruvian forces stormed the besieged residence of Ambassador Morihisa Aoki and ended the hostage crisis.

Overall, the Japanese government gave high marks to the operation, which saved all but one of the 72 hostages. “It is close to a miracle that the rescue operations resulted in a minimal number of victims,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hiroshi Hashimoto said.

On the prime minister’s order, Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda left for Lima later in the day to help restore diplomatic functions there that have been paralyzed since the crisis began last December. Hashimoto said he had spoken by telephone with Fujimori in the wake of the rescue operation. “I extended my gratitude to President Fujimori for the operation, ” Hashimoto said.

Hashimoto said he first heard about the operation at around 5:30 a.m., shortly after the Peruvian police and military forces stormed the residence. Foreign Ministry officials said the first reports arrived in Tokyo from a Japanese diplomat in Lima, who saw the operation on a local TV broadcast.

In the course of their conversation, Fujimori told Hashimoto the Peruvian government had been forced to keep the operation secret, even on a government-to-government basis, because of the sensitive nature of the timing and asked for Hashimoto’s understanding. “I told President Fujimori that I regret Tokyo was not informed in advance but added that I understand his decision,” Hashimoto said. “I would have done the same thing.”

Hashimoto said he had no criticism of the handling of the crisis, adding, “Now that all the hostages are safe, who can question Mr. Fujimori about whether he informed us or not or because he used force?”