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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ambassador To Peru Quits Post

TOKYO -- Freed after four months of being held hostage by a band of heavily armed leftist rebels, Japan's ambassador to Peru might have thought his ordeal was over.


But just weeks after returning to Japan a hero, Ambassador Morihisa Aoki is under siege again.


Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda, speaking before a committee in Parliament on Tuesday, said he intended to accept Aoki's resignation.


It was not yet clear who Aoki's replacement would be. Ikeda said he intends to let Aoki step down before the results of a government investigation into the incident are released. The investigation is expected to end next month.


Aoki was called before the committee to answer to a barrage of attacks on his handling of the crisis, which began last December when the leftist rebels stormed a gala reception Aoki was holding to celebrate the birthday of Japan's Emperor Akihito.


Aoki and 71 other hostages were freed by Peruvian commandos four months later. He was injured in the raid and still uses crutches to walk.


Though all the rebels, two soldiers and one hostage died in the final raid, none of the 24 Japanese hostages was seriously injured. Aoki's role in handling the situation was initially hailed by Japan's government and media.


That praise, however, was quickly replaced by a series of angry attacks in Parliament and in the press.


Critics have slammed Aoki for everything from not ordering enough security before the attack to chain-smoking through a news conference held shortly after his release.


Over the past week, popular weekly magazines have quoted unidentified former hostages as saying Aoki was a coward who treated them with a mixture of rudeness and arrogance.


According to one weekly, the Shukan Bunshun, Aoki drank copiously throughout the crisis, prompting the Japanese hostages to secretly write a letter to the government requesting he be replaced by a Japanese diplomat tasked with observing the negotiations.


A Foreign Ministry spokesman refused to confirm or deny whether such a request was made, saying only that the facts remain "unclear." The letter was not mentioned during the morning session of Tuesday's hearing.


Aoki acknowledged that as host of the reception he bore responsibility for the hostages' suffering and admitted he may have acted inappropriately with them during the crisis.