Japan says it has received formal notification from Peru that Lima's ambassador to Tokyo has been withdrawn. The deterioration in diplomatic relations comes amid anger in South America over what is viewed as Japanese meddling in the legal situation of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, now in custody in Chile.
Japan says it received official word Monday that Peruvian Ambassador Luis Machiavello has been withdrawn because of what Lima calls Japanese interference in the extradition process of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori from Chile.
If returned to Peru, Mr. Fujimori faces charges of corruption and of authorizing death squads during his decade in power that began in 1990.
Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Tomohiko Taniguchi told reporters Monday that Peru had confirmed its ambassador's departure. "In terms of whether or not that's a withdrawal of ambassador from Peru, what I can say is that a verbal note, which is the official document about that, only states that [the] Peruvian government is terminating the functions of the ambassador," he said.
Mr. Fujimori, born in Peru to Japanese immigrants, described himself as a Peruvian citizen on entering Chile eight days ago. But he claimed Japanese citizenship when fleeing to Tokyo in 2000.
When Mr. Fujimori arrived in Santiago last week, Chilean officials detained him under the terms of a 1932 extradition treaty with Peru.
The Japanese embassy in Santiago quickly dispatched a consular official to visit the former Peruvian president, but Japan insists it is treating Mr. Fujimori no differently than any other of its nationals detained in a foreign country.
Peru has termed the withdrawal of its ambassador "a strong protest." But the move stops short of severing diplomatic relations. Mr. Taniguchi says Tokyo is optimistic it will not come to that. "We're waiting for another ambassador to come and we will be welcoming him or her, of course," he said.
When Mr. Fujimori went into self-imposed exile in Japan five years ago, he was fleeing a corruption scandal back home. After faxing his resignation as president to Lima, he then claimed Japanese citizenship.
Peru then twice asked Japan to extradite the former president and he was placed on Interpol's most-wanted list. But Japan declined to take any action on Lima's extradition requests, saying it could not hand over a Japanese citizen.
An opinion poll by the El Comercio newspaper in Lima released Sunday indicates that three-quarters of residents in the Peruvian capital believe Japan aided Mr. Fujimori in his surprise trip to Chile, something Japanese government officials have firmly denied.