Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka apologized Wednesday to bureaucrats in her ministry, saying some of her comments during Tuesday’s session of the Lower House Budget Committee may have been “misunderstood.”
Tanaka said she refused to answer questions on the U.S. missile defense plan not because she hadn’t been briefed by ministry officials but because she wanted a fuller report on last week’s talks between Japan and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
“I have received explanations from ministry officials about the missile defense plan as a whole, but I have not received anything on the gist of the talks between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Armitage and the Foreign Ministry,” Tanaka said.
On Tuesday, when she was asked for comments on the U.S. plan to consider developing a national missile defense system, Tanaka said she requested information on the matter from ministry officials in charge but did not receive anything.
Tanaka, whose relationship with the ministry’s senior officials has been frayed by conflicts of opinion in personnel and policy matters, said she apologizes to the officials if her comments led people to believe she had not received any reports from her staff.
“The Japan-U.S. relationship is important, and I wanted to give my response after I have fully understood everything,” Tanaka said. She admitted the bureaucrats did provide her with the minutes of the talks, including the 90-minute meeting Armitage held at the ministry with Deputy Foreign Minister Ryozo Kato and Shingo Shuto, director general of the Defense Agency’s Defense Policy Bureau, to explain how the U.S. intends to defend its allies under the plan.
“But I don’t have time to read something that looks like a telephone directory,” she said. “Perhaps this kind of system was all right with the former foreign ministers, but I want to see something that has summarized the main points. That’s my style.”
Tanaka said she received the summarized report at 4 p.m. Tuesday, an hour before the committee session ended.
The missile defense plan, aimed at shielding the United States from ballistic missile attacks, has been met with skepticism from U.S. allies in Europe, opposition from Russia and hostility from China.
Japan, which is conducting joint research with the U.S. on a similar defense program to cover U.S. troops and allies in Asia, has taken a supportive stance but has not given its outright endorsement.
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