Reporter loses bid to clear his name over secret Okinawa reversion deal

by Akemi Nakamura

The Tokyo High Court rejected a damages suit Wednesday by a former journalist who claimed his reputation was ruined by an illegal conviction over his reporting on Japan’s secret agreement with the U.S. to pay for the reversion of Okinawa in 1972.

Takichi Nishiyama, 76, reported in the Mainichi Shimbun in 1971 that Tokyo secretly agreed with Washington to shoulder $4 million as part of the cost to return Okinawa to Japan.

The political reporter and his source, a female Foreign Ministry secretary, were charged in 1972 with violating the National Public Service Law — Nishiyama for getting her to pass him the classified documents on the reversion negotiations and the secretary for doing it. Nishiyama’s conviction was finalized by the Supreme Court in 1978.

In his damages suit, which was earlier turned down by a lower court, Nishiyama sought an apology and ¥33 million in compensation from the government, arguing his report was corroborated by U.S. government documents released in 2000 and 2002 that show Japan contributed the $4 million the U.S. was supposed to pay to restore a land parcel in Okinawa to its original state.

Presiding Judge Takaki Otsubo ruled Wednesday that Nishiyama’s right to file a damages suit ended when the 20-year filing period passed. The court did not offer a determination of whether the secret deal existed.

Nishiyama said he was not surprised by the ruling.

“This court case is highly political because it deals with a systematic crime by the state,” he said.

He pledged to file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

The government continues to officially deny the existence of the secret deal with the Americans over the Okinawa reversion.

However, in 2006, the American bureau chief at the Foreign Ministry at the time of the reversion, Bunroku Yoshino, admitted there had been a secret deal.

Nishiyama filed his suit with the Tokyo District Court in 2005, which rejected it last March.