Foreign Ministry yet to confirm 2 of 4 Japan-U.S. secret pacts

The Foreign Ministry has not yet confirmed the existence of two of the four alleged Japan-U.S. secret pacts that the ministry is looking into, sources close to the matter said Thursday.

The two agreements are related to the use of U.S. military bases in the event of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula and the 1972 reversion of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty from U.S. control.

The existence of the agreements has already been exposed through disclosed official U.S. documents and by a Japanese involved in the secret negotiations, but the Japanese government has consistently denied any knowledge of such secret deals.

The ministry has been looking into the decades-old secret pacts since September on the orders of Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and will hold the first meeting of a panel of experts Friday to study the issue further.

The launch of the six-member panel, to be headed by University of Tokyo Professor Shinichi Kitaoka, comes as the ministry is ''nearly reaching the end'' of its in-house factual investigation into the issue, Okada has said.

The panel will submit a report to Okada around mid-January.

The ministry has already found documents suggesting that a deal was signed in 1960, under which Tokyo would allow stopovers by U.S. military vessels carrying nuclear weapons, although the treaty requires Washington to hold prior consultations with Tokyo before bringing nuclear weapons into Japan, according to ministry sources.

There is also an alleged deal which Japan and the United States agreed on in revising the Japan-U.S. security treaty in 1960 that Tokyo would allow Washington to use U.S. military bases in Japan without prior consultation in the event of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula.

Under another purported deal in relation to Okinawa, Japan and the United States agreed that Tokyo would allow Washington to bring nuclear weapons into Okinawa in times of emergency, although the two countries had decided on the return of a nuclear-free Okinawa.

In 1969, then Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato and U.S. President Richard Nixon agreed that Okinawa, which had been occupied by the United States since the end of World War II, should revert to Japanese rule and that nuclear weapons will not be stationed there.

The reversion was realized in May 1972.

The fourth alleged secret pact concerns the cost burdens associated with the reversion of Okinawa.

By delving into the issue, Okada apparently hopes to demonstrate enhanced transparency in diplomacy following a historic change of government in Japan in September.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on Nov. 26, 2009)