The government does not have to turn over secret diplomatic documents concerning the 1972 reversion of Okinawa because in all likelihood they were destroyed, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, upholding a lower court finding.
In its 2011 decision, the Tokyo High Court accepted the government’s argument that the documents were disposed of before the law on freedom of information was enacted to avoid exposing Japan’s secret negotiations with the United States.
The deal was made secret because the Japanese government didn’t want the public to think Okinawa had been “bought back” from the United States, according to the high court ruling.
Takichi Nishiyama, an 82-year-old former reporter for the Mainichi Shimbun, filed a lawsuit with others in March 2009 to force the disclosure of the papers after the government refused access to them.
Nishiyama was convicted in the 1970s in connection with his reporting on the Japan-U.S. negotiations over the reversion.
“The courts just follow the government. It will create a (political) system that is totally opposed to information disclosure,” Nishiyama said after the ruling. “Information disclosure is the foundation of democracy. The government should reveal as much information as possible about politics, diplomacy, the military and everything.”
The high court overturned a lower court ruling ordering the government to release the documents that showed there was a secret accord for Japan to shoulder part of the U.S. costs for the reversion of the prefecture.
Both the high court and the Tokyo District Court recognized the existence of such documents, but the high court did not push the government to disclose information.
In a landmark ruling in April 2010, the district court said the government had the documents and ordered their disclosure. The government was also ordered to pay ¥100,000 in damages to each of the plaintiffs.
In March 2010, a month before the district court ruling, the foreign and finance ministers acknowledged that there had indeed been a secret agreement.
Nishiyama had filed another damages lawsuit, saying the indictment against him was illegal. But the court did not accept his application for the lawsuit, saying the compensation right has already disappeared.
Nishiyama’s reports created a scandal partly because it was later revealed he obtained the information about the secret documents via a married Foreign Ministry clerk with whom he was having an affair.