Deputy Foreign Minister Hitoshi Tanaka denied Friday that he attempted to delete the word “pressure” from documents prepared to brief reporters on the outcome of last month’s Texas summit between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush.
During a meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s panel on foreign affairs, Tanaka claimed he had merely offered his opinion that there are various ways to put pressure on North Korea other than publicly using the word “pressure.”
“I believe dialogue and pressure are both important,” Tanaka was quoted as saying by participants at the LDP meeting. “The Foreign Ministry is consistent on that matter.”
According to news reports, Tanaka, who has advocated maintaining dialogue with North Korea, attempted to strike the word “pressure” from the press briefing draft following the May 23 summit, although Koizumi told Bush he considers both dialogue and pressure necessary to compel the North to drop its nuclear arms program.
During the LDP panel meeting, Tanaka said it is natural for government officials to discuss remarks made by the prime minister in diplomatic talks before deciding on how much to reveal to reporters.
He added that the briefing given by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe after the summit is the government’s official version of the summit’s outcome.
Tanaka came under fire from members of the LDP panel, which consists mainly of lawmakers who have advocated economic sanctions against the North to resolve the nuclear as well as abduction issues. The lawmakers said Tanaka was acting beyond his authority as a bureaucrat.
Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi reiterated Friday she has no intention of replacing or reprimanding Tanaka on the issue, even though relatives of Japanese abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s have called for his ouster.
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