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Deputy sheriff blunders in Tokyo.

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Laurie Brereton - Deputy Sheriff Blunders In Tokyo Wednesday, 06 June 2001

Deputy Sheriff Blunders In Tokyo Laurie Brereton - Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

Media Statement - 5 June 2001

Foreign Minister Downer's gung ho support for US National Missile Defence plans has led him to blunder in his dealings with the new Japanese Foreign Minister", the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laurie Brereton, said today.

"Yesterday Foreign Minister Downer issued a press release flatly denying that he had told former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto that he would be passing information on his NMD-related discussions with Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka to the United States. He said any such suggestion was 'a complete fabrication'."

"Later in the day the Japanese Government's top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, publicly contradicted Mr Downer's denial saying he had spoken to Mr Hashimoto who had confirmed the basic thrust of the conversation including that the Australian Foreign Minister intended to convey the substance of his conversation with Mrs Tanaka to the United States."

"It is a matter of regret that Mr Downer's relations with the new Japanese Foreign Minister appear to have begun with him working behind her back to undermine her in respect of the sensitive National Missile Defence issue. This is an unfortunate development in one of Australia's most important bilateral relationships."

"Mr Downer's first visit to an Asian country in more than six months has resulted in nothing short of an embarrassing diplomatic mess."

"The Foreign Minister's determination to act as a US Deputy on the issue of National Missile Defence is unlikely to serve Australia's national interests. Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

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