Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka said Thursday she is considering taking legal action against bureaucrats in her ministry who she claims have leaked remarks she reportedly made about the U.S. missile defense program.

In an Upper House committee on diplomacy and defense, Tanaka said ministry officials intentionally distorted conversations she had with her foreign counterparts and then leaked them to the press.

“These are organizational, intentional leaks by the Foreign Ministry,” Tanaka said. “I am consulting with attorneys about possible legal action. I am telling them how (the leaks) are hurting our national interests.”

The legal action Tanaka is threatening to take is believed related to the National Public Service Law, which obligates government officials to protect secrets obtained in their work.

Yutaka Iimura, head of the ministry’s secretariat, denied Tanaka’s accusation, claiming it is impossible at this point to confirm that secrets were intentionally leaked.

Tanaka has been a fixture in headlines over the past week ever since reports broke that she called into question the missile defense plans of U.S. President George W. Bush in separate meetings with her Australian, Italian and German counterparts.

On Wednesday, the ministry’s spokesman said Tanaka has told the U.S. that the media reports are based on “false information.”

Shotaro Yachi, deputy vice foreign minister for foreign policy, conveyed Tanaka’s message by telephone Tuesday to acting U.S. Ambassador to Japan Christopher LaFleur, Press Secretary Norio Hattori told reporters.

Yachi was quoted as telling LaFleur that Tanaka’s statements, made in separate talks last month with the three foreign ministers, were “based on the basic position of the Japanese government.”

The comments attributed to Tanaka regarding the U.S. missile defense and the Japan-U.S. alliance are inconsistent with the government’s official position.

Hattori denied claims by Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Shunji Yanai that Washington is concerned about Tanaka’s reported comments, saying, “I am not aware that the U.S. government is concerned.”

Asked about the latest twist in Tanaka’s feud with diplomats, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said: “It is not very good to have such problems in a ministry. I hope a trusting relationship will be restored as soon as possible.” He added that ministers should be careful about their comments in general.

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