TOKYO -- The Japanese government approved a payment 10 years ago to left-wing guerrillas who threatened the life of its ambassador in Peru, in an incident oddly similar to the current hostage crisis in Lima, a Japanese newspaper reported yesterday.
The Asahi Shimbun, a widely respected newspaper with good contacts in the government, said that in 1986 the Japanese ambassador was sent a letter warning that he would be killed unless he paid a ransom, and that this threat was delivered during an embassy party in Lima.
The Foreign Ministry, while not commenting on the overall accuracy of the Asahi report, denied that a threatening letter was received during a party in 1986 or that a ransom was later paid in the location cited by the newspaper, the Kyodo News Service said.
The Asahi article said the Japanese government promptly yielded to the ransom demand. Critics say Japanese companies and officials have become easy targets for blackmailers because safety is a primary concern for the Japanese, and they often accede to expensive demands.
In the present hostage crisis, Japan has strongly opposed any action that might jeopardize the lives of the more than 100 people being held in its ambassador's residence in Lima.
It has been far more conciliatory than the U.S. or Peruvian governments, which seem to favor a tougher stand on principle against terrorism.
The Asahi article did not say who sent the threatening letter in 1986. But it said the only rebel organizations active at the time were the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement -- the group now holding the hostages at the Japanese ambassador's residence -- and the Shining Path.
The letter was received during a charity party held at the Japanese ambassador's residence, the article said.
Among the 700 guests were Peruvian Cabinet ministers and other diplomats, and the letter's delivery was followed immediately by a telephone call restating the threat.
The letter displayed detailed knowledge of the private life of the ambassador, Tadatsuna Yabu, and said it would kill him unless the equivalent of $150,000 was turned over as ransom, the article said.
According to this account, Yabu immediately called his superiors at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo and was told that he could leave the country if he felt unsafe.
But it also ordered the embassy to make the payment as demanded, the Asahi said.
A few days later, in cooperation with the police, a Japanese Embassy official carried the money to a park in Lima, but nobody appeared to collect it, the article said. The article suggested that the involvement of the local police may have frightened away the blackmailers.
Pub Date: 12/29/96