Hashimoto to visit Lima May 9 to voice thanks

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto plans to visit Peru between May 9 and 12 to personally express his gratitude to President Alberto Fujimori for the rescue of all 24 Japanese held in captivity by leftist rebels, government and Liberal Democratic Party sources said May 2.

Both governments are adjusting Hashimoto’s itinerary in secrecy for security reasons and have agreed to make an official announcement of his visit only 24 hours before his departure, the sources said. The sources said Peru has yet to reply on whether the proposed itinerary is acceptable.

The April 22 military raid ordered by Fujimori ended the four-month siege at the Japanese ambassador’s residence by rebels of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. All but one of the 72 hostages were rescued in the raid; one Peruvian hostage died.

In light of his Diet responsibilities, the Japanese government initially planned for Hashimoto to visit Peru after this year’s Group of Seven summit in Denver in late June. But the visit is being moved up because of Hashimoto’s strong desire to fly to Lima as early as possible to personally thank Fujimori for the rescue operation, the sources said.

The hostage drama came to a violent end 127 days after the rebels took over the ambassador’s compound on Dec. 17 last year. If no final itinerary agreement is reached between the two countries soon, Hashimoto’s visit to Peru may be postponed by about a week, the sources said.