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A Foreign Ministry panel of experts on March 9 announced, among other things, that Tokyo and Washington had “tacitly agreed” that port calls or transit by U.S. Navy ships carrying nuclear weapons did not constitute the “introduction” of nuclear weapons, an action that had to be cleared first by consultation between the two governments.

Ten days later, Mr. Kazuhiko Togo, who served as head of the Foreign Ministry’s Treaties Bureau from July 1998 to August 1999, testified before the Lower House Foreign Affairs Committee that he had placed 58 documents on the above secret agreement in five red file boxes and handed the files, with a list of the documents, to his successor, Mr. Shotaro Yachi, who later became foreign vice minister. He also said he handed the same list to Mr. Ichiro Fujisaki, then head of the ministry’s North American Affairs Bureau and now ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Togo said eight of 16 documents that he considers the most important did not turn up among the 331 documents the panel uncovered, adding that he had heard from a person familiar with the ministry’s situation that some documents were destroyed before the freedom of information law went into effect in 2001. If this is true, the ministry’s action betrays the people’s trust. In a democracy, it is unconscionable for public officials to destroy documents related to important aspects of the nation’s history.

According to Mr. Togo, in one of the eight documents — which is a record of a Jan. 20, 1960, conversation between then Treaties Bureau chief Mr. Michitoshi Takahashi and an official of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo — the embassy official mentions the U.S. position: that the “introduction” of nuclear weapons refers only to deployment of nuclear weapons on land and that the U.S. cannot disclose whether particular ships are carrying nuclear weapons because of its “neither confirm nor deny” policy with regard to nuclear weapons deployment.

The Diet should do what it can to find out who did what with the eight missing documents. If necessary, it should exercise its constitutional power to conduct investigation related to government administration.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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