• Kyodo

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The Foreign Ministry may have doctored an in-house document in a bid to discredit lawmaker Muneo Suzuki and a senior official close to him, according to a copy of the original document recently obtained by Kyodo News.

Suzuki, a House of Representatives member from Hokkaido, left the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in March due to a series of scandals. He was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of receiving a 5 million yen bribe from a local logging company in 1998.

Suzuki is known for having exerted influence over the Foreign Ministry, especially on Japanese diplomacy toward Russia, including the territorial dispute over four islands off Hokkaido, his constituency.

In March, the Japanese Communist Party released the document in question to a Diet panel as evidence that Suzuki and Kazuhiko Togo, a former Japanese ambassador to the Netherlands who was later sacked, were pushing ahead with an approach that was inconsistent with the Japanese government’s position on the territorial dispute between Tokyo and Moscow.

However, the copy obtained by Kyodo’s Moscow bureau indicates the document the JCP introduced in the Diet had apparently been falsified by those in the ministry opposed to the “flexible” policy promulgated by Suzuki and Togo, the sources said. The same people are also suspected of helping the JCP acquire the document, the existence of which has been officially denied by the Foreign Ministry, they said.

A similar document believed to be the original of the document the JCP released to the Diet in March was found at the Russian Division of the ministry’s European Affairs Bureau, although Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said the ministry could not locate any such material, they said.

Suzuki and Togo reportedly were strong advocates of the two nations concluding a peace treaty upon the return of the smaller two of the four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido claimed by Japan.

Such an approach sparked criticism of “dual diplomacy” by Tokyo, because the government has insisted that all four islands be returned to conclude a peace treaty.

According to the sources, the copy obtained by Kyodo News is the record, in question-and-answer style, of an unofficial meeting in Tokyo on March 5, 2001, attended by Suzuki, Togo, Russian Vice Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov and Russian Ambassador Alexander Panov.

The copy shows the four were discussing methods of resolving the territorial row between the two nations.

The meeting was held prior to the summit between then Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Irkutsk, Russia, at the end of the month.

Compared with the document presented by the JCP, the material obtained by Kyodo News differed in more than 30 places, the sources said, including the attachment of an explanatory paper saying Suzuki and Togo were sending a message against the Japanese government to Russia.

Concerning a reference to the 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration in a joint statement later issued at the Irkutsk summit, the material shows that although Losyukov proposed the idea, the JCP-released version had been changed to show that Togo made the proposal.

The 1956 joint declaration says Russia would return the two smaller islands — Shikotan Island and the Habomai group of islets — to Japan after concluding a peace treaty. The two larger islands are Kunashiri and Etorofu.

The JCP-released document apparently gives the impression that Suzuki and Togo were trying to hurry the return of the two islands based on the joint declaration.

Moreover, two phrases in which Losyukov praised Togo as a “good partner” were deleted from that version, the sources said.

The government and the Foreign Ministry have both said the meeting was private and failed to confirm the existence of the record.

However, Jiro Kodera, a former director of the ministry’s Russian Affairs Division, effectively admitted the existence to Kyodo News on Tuesday, saying, “I recall I have seen such a document.”

The then Soviet Union occupied the four islands at the end of World War II. The territorial row has prevented Japan and Russia from concluding a peace treaty.

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