Japan-U.S. secret pact study outcome to be released around year-end

The Foreign Ministry will announce at the end of the year or early next year the final outcome of an investigation into purported secret pacts between Japan and the United States, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said Wednesday.

''I am expected to (receive a report from ministry officials) by the end of November...It will take at least one month from then or later than that to announce the outcome,'' Okada said in a meeting to discuss the ministry's policies with ruling party members.

He also stressed that the process is ''going smoothly'' and that a panel to study the issue will be set up in the near future.

The ministry launched a team to look into the pacts on an order from Okada, who apparently hopes to show enhanced transparency in foreign policy after Japan experienced a change of government in September.

The outcome of the investigation could lead the government to admit the existence of such alleged decades-old secret pacts in a landmark reversal of the stance of previous administrations.

A total of four secret pacts are subject to investigation -- two related to the revision of the Japan-U.S. security treaty in 1960 and two related to the 1972 reversion of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty from U.S. control.

Official U.S. documents and testimony from people involved in the issue have already confirmed their existence.

The focus of the investigation will be whether the ministry possesses documents that prove an alleged 1960 secret pact related to the handling of nuclear weapons.

Under the deal, which the two countries agreed on in revising the Japan-U.S. security treaty in 1960, Tokyo would allow stopovers of U.S. military vessels or aircraft carrying nuclear weapons, though the treaty requires Washington to hold prior consultations with Tokyo before bringing nuclear weapons into Japan.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on Nov. 18, 2009)