Tokyo Notes

Washington Postal Editorial

A DPJ member’s 9/11 doubts has the Washington Post fired up. But was it a set up as well?

Yukihisa Fujita, the director-general of the international department of Japan’s governing party, was forced to comment yesterday on the blistering attack launched at him by the Washington Post in its editorial Monday.

In the editorial, the Post lambasted Fujita for casting doubt on whether 9/11 was a terrorist attack. Characterizing Fujita as a ‘Brahmin in the foreign policy establishment’ of Japan’s government, the editorial went on to describe Fujita as a man ‘susceptible to the imaginings of the lunatic fringe,’ claiming that he also referred to stock market profiteering by those who had advance knowledge of 9/11 and that he said some of the plane hijackers were still alive.

The timing could not be worse given that Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s government continues to dither over how to resolve the relocation of the US Marine Corps’ Futenma air station on the southern island of Okinawa, despite a signed and sealed bilateral agreement with the nation’s biggest ally on the issue. Tokyo’s show of not allowing itself to be pushed around by the United States has certainly been testing the patience of the Obama administration, and, it would seem, sections of the US media.

As might be expected, Fujita yesterday said he had been misrepresented. He told one of the major business dailies here, the Sankei Shimbun, that the interview had nothing to do with 9/11, that the comments he did make hadn’t been given in an official capacity and that the paper had even described him with the wrong title. Similarly, he told the Asahi Shimbun that the remarks were personal comments made during informal talk after the interview.

It’s certainly startling that a member of the Democratic Party of Japan with a foreign policy role should make such comments about 9/11, and the Post has every right to challenge him on this.

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But is there anything new here? Fujita hasn’t just cast doubt on the US account of 9/11 in post-interview chitchat—he’s questioned it formally in Japan’s parliament. No mention was made in the Post about what the actual interview with Fujita was about, nor was a separate story about the interview available on the Post’s Web site. So was Fujita set up so the Post could get him to talk about 9/11 and then use his comments for an editorial slamming anti-Americanism in Japan’s government?

At this stage, you could make a strong case for saying yes.