Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto pledged Oct. 21 to sign in December an international treaty banning antipersonnel land mines, pushing the government to form a consensus behind him.Hashimoto outlined his position in a meeting with Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi, Defense Agency chief Fumio Kyuma and Chief Cabinet Secretary Kanezo Muraoka, according to Muraoka and Obuchi.Speaking to reporters afterward, Hashimoto said, “We will move to sign the treaty soon.” However, Obuchi said he and Kyuma could not reach a consensus.Although Hashimoto and Obuchi have shown willingness to sign the treaty, the Defense Agency has been reluctant to do so because it considers land mines an effective way to defend Japan’s long coastline. At the meeting, Kyuma asked Obuchi to promptly seek development of alternatives to land mines so there would not be “a vacuum period” after the proposed signing. He also asked that coordination with the U.S. position on the treaty be promoted in order to maintain good relations between Tokyo and Washington, according to government officials.Obuchi told a news conference the same day that he would make utmost efforts to reach a consensus over the treaty. He also said that coordinating with the U.S. is important, because Washington is reluctant to sign the treaty.

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