Aoki praises Japan’s handling of hostage crisis

The Japanese government’s commitment to peacefully resolving the Lima hostage crisis probably saved many hostages’ lives during the daring rescue mission, former Ambassador Morihisa Aoki said in an interview June 6.

“It was perfectly permissible to storm the embassy at any time and eliminate the guerrillas, whether or not the hostages were victimized,” Aoki said in an interview in English with Inter-FM and The Japan Times. The interview was broadcast live.

“Thanks to the government of Japan’s efforts, Fujimori had to alter his original ideas and make much more elaborate plans and strategies.” Aoki added. Planning was critical, but the guerrillas’ youth and inexperience was also a factor. Calling the young rebels “part-time terrorists,” Aoki said “they hadn’t been indoctrinated and were brainwashed by the hostages. They liked and respected us. I was told afterward that when the time came, some of them fought the commandos, but they couldn’t kill us.”

While Tokyo’s resistance to action may have saved lives, Aoki said the failure to resolve the crisis has been his undoing. “The hostages released before the new year had nothing but praise for me. Then my reputation fell like a broken elevator.”

Since the raid, the ambassador has been criticized for his behavior at a press conference held immediately after his release. Various publications have printed anonymous criticism of Aoki’s actions during the siege.

“The Japanese public was frustrated that their government could do nothing to solve the problem. That frustration and anger was turned against me,” Aoki said.

The ambassador admitted that he was the highest ranking person in the embassy and that he had set the date and style of the reception. It was therefore his responsibility to submit his resignation when the crisis was over. But Aoki denied reports that he had been warned of the potential dangers of a large party and that he had turned down offers of more security personnel. “I had no warning whatsoever,” he said. “If the government of Peru had any hint of a threat, how come the mother, sister and brother of the president were among the guests? More importantly, among the guests were all the top people from the Peruvian antiterrorist command.”

Aoki explained that Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori had taken guests on a tour of downtown Lima in his car without security and bodyguards to show how safe the city was. “No one in the government of Peru was in the know nor had any concern about the danger,” Aoki emphasized.

The ambassador submitted his resignation to the Foreign Ministry but the government “has half turned down the offer” because the official investigation into the crisis has not yet finished. The ambassador’s fate, status, pension and pay all hinge on the outcome of that assessment. “This incident is not yet over for me,” Aoki explained. “I still have to present my condolences to the families of the victims of the raid. I certainly intend to.”