Chapter I.
General Overview-The International Community and Japan's Foreign Policy in 1997

D. Seizure of the Japanese Ambassador's Residence in Peru

1. Seizure of the Japanese Ambassador's Residence in Peru

The seizure began on 18 December 1996 (Japan time, as are all dates below) when members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), an armed anti-government group, seized the Japanese Ambassador's Residence in Peru. This was an incident without precedent, lasting a long 127 days and involving many hostages from a range of countries. It was eventually resolved on 23 April 1997 through a blitz rescue operation carried out by the Peruvian Government, although three precious lives were lost in the process.

2. Response of the Japanese Government

Japan's basic position was to seek a peaceful resolution, placing maximum priority on the lives of the hostages, not yielding to terrorism. From that stance, the primary responses of the Government of Japan were as follows.

Firstly, as an initial response, an emergency headquarters was set up within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately after the incident occurred, headed by the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, with a crisis office established within the Prime Minister's Office. The following day, a crisis headquarters headed by the Prime Minister was established. In addition, Minister for Foreign Affairs Yukihiko Ikeda made an urgent visit to Lima the day after the outbreak of the incident to set up a local crisis headquarters and to communicate the basic thinking of the Japanese Government to Peru, etc.

Throughout the occupation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' emergency headquarters then maintained contact with Lima, monitoring the situation and gathering and analyzing related information on a 24-hour basis. Close contact and coordination was also kept with the Prime Minister's Office and the other related ministries and agencies, with the government responding in a unified fashion to the incident.

Secondly, in order to reduce the uncertainty and suffering of the hostages and their families to some extent at least, the government devoted maximum attention to caring for the hostages' mental and physical health and to providing information to hostages' families and companies. Supplies were also taken into the compound and briefings provided for the hostages' families and companies.

Thirdly, the position of the Japanese Government was to support the efforts of the Peruvian Government, maintaining close contact. The rationale for this stance was that because the incident had occurred in Peru, it was an issue involving the maintenance of law and order in Peru; moreover, none of the terrorists' demands were for Japan, but rather for the Peruvian Government. Japan therefore respected Peru's sovereignty, letting the Peruvian Government take the principal role. From this perspective, Prime Minister Hashimoto maintained close telephone contact with President Alberto Fujimori of Peru from the time of the outbreak of the incident, and a Summit was held between the two leaders in Toronto on 1 February 1997. Japan also worked to gain international support, including a press statement issued by the President of the Security Council of the United Nations on 19 December 1996, the 27 December 1996 Chairman's Statement of the G-7/P-8, support from the ASEAN countries during Prime Minister Hashimoto's visit to the ASEAN region in January 1997, and the Chairman's Statement of the February ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting.

Further, Japan closely observed the dialogue between the Peruvian Government and the MRTA, which centered on 10 preliminary dialogues between the two sides, through Japanese Ambassador to Mexico Terusuke Terada, who was an observer on the Commission of Guarantors. Japan also engaged in various forms of cooperation to support the efforts of the Peruvian Government and the Commission of Guarantors toward a peaceful resolution. These unflagging efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution resulted in the terrorists relaxing their guard, creating the opportunity to launch a successful rescue operation.

3. Lessons and challenges

To learn from this incident and analyze areas for reflection and improvement, immediately after the incident had been resolved, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated an investigative committee on the seizure of the Japanese Ambassador's Residence in Peru. This committee verified and analyzed the events leading up to the incident, including security issues, and the subsequent responses, producing a report on the results of this investigation in June 1997. As a follow-up, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been working on the following measures: enhancement of security systems for its overseas establishments, including both personnel and physical aspects; promotion of international cooperation to combat terrorism (see Chapter II, Part C, Section 1); and improvement of information gathering and analysis mechanisms. (In this regard, a Committee for the Analysis of Information on Terrorism and an Office for the Gathering and Analysis of Information on Terrorism was established within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.)

Overseas establishments could well be the target of terrorist attacks again in the future, and, given the increasing number of Japanese living or traveling overseas, there is also a risk that Japanese citizens abroad could be kidnapped or become involved in hostage incidents and other terrorist crimes. Learning from the incident in Peru, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to work to strengthen the security systems of overseas establishments, and also to devote maximum efforts to the protection of Japanese citizens abroad and to international cooperation to combat terrorism.

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