Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pentagon denies burying defoliant

Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011
Staff writer

The Pentagon has once again denied allegations that the U.S. military buried the highly toxic defoliant Agent Orange in Okinawa, the Foreign Ministry said.

"The U.S. Department of Defense said that it once again reviewed past records and found no documents confirming that the U.S. military stored or used defoliant in Okinawa before its reversion" to Japan, the ministry said in a statement late Friday.

But the ministry added that it is taking measures to learn "further details of the facts" from the U.S. government. No information could be released, however, on what the Japanese government was still trying to confirm with the U.S., a Foreign Ministry official said.

"We are not saying the issue has been resolved because the U.S. answered our question. We are continuing the exchange," the official said. The U.S. "said there were no (records), but there have been testimonies and . . . there were parts in the U.S. response that needed further confirmation."

Recent media reports, including by The Japan Times, have covered accounts by former U.S. military personnel saying the U.S. military stored and used Agent Orange in Okinawa in the late 1960s.

The media also reported on the allegations in 2007, but the U.S. government gave Japan the same answer: "no documents backed (allegations over) the possession or use of defoliant," the Foreign Ministry said.

Meanwhile, in May, Washington and Seoul decided to conduct a joint investigation following media reports that the U.S. military buried Agent Orange at a base in South Korea.

Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto refused in a recent session of the Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee to clarify if Japan would demand a similar probe.

"This is a matter of strong concern and I would like to make efforts to respond" to the people's concern, Matsumoto told the panel earlier this month.

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