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Japan's foreign minister goes to Peru for hostage talks

ikeda December 19, 1996
Web posted at: 11:40 a.m. EST (1640 GMT)

In this story:

From Correspondent May Lee

TOKYO (CNN) -- Japanese Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda left for Peru Thursday to take part in hostage crisis negotiations while Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto set up his own special cabinet team.

Japanese television was providing extensive, live coverage of developments as the nation followed the fate of about 400 captives held by Peruvian rebels at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima.

embassy map

"I will always keep the safety of the hostages in mind and do my best to win their release," Ikeda told reporters before leaving Tokyo. Technically, Japan is in charge of the hostage situation because the embassy is under Japanese jurisdiction.

Ikeda acknowledged that safeguards were less than perfect on Tuesday night in Lima, when rebels from the Cuban-inspired Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) invaded the residence, disguised as caterers.

Japan targeted before

In 1991 and 1992 the Japanese embassy in Lima was one of several embassies attacked by Marxist guerrillas. Leftist guerrillas also claimed responsibility for three Japanese aid workers shot dead in 1991.

Japan, a staunch backer of President Alberto Fujimori's government, was chosen as a target "due to the constant meddling of the Japanese government in Peru," the rebels said in a message sent with a hostage released on Wednesday.

Fujimori faulted

Fujimori, who is of Japanese ancestry, has provoked extremists in Peru who claim Japanese aid and investment help only the select few, and shut the masses out.

Because of the hostage crisis, Japan's Emperor Akihito, whose upcoming birthday was the reason for the gathering at the ambassador's house in Peru, has canceled all events that were to take place in Tokyo on Monday to celebrate his 63rd birthday.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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