Former Fellow Accused In Bribery Scandal

A former Japanese vice minister of defense denied yesterday that he was in the pay of Taiwan while studying at Harvard as a distinguished fellow from 1999 to 2001.

Recent newspaper reports from Singapore and Hong Kong have alleged that Masahiro Akiyama—along with former Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto—accepted bribes to negotiate Taiwanese interests into U.S.-Japan defense accords.

Akiyama allegedly received $100,000 from Taiwan after his resignation from the Japanese defense ministry in 1997—money that the Sing Tao Daily of Hong Kong said he used to attend the Kennedy School of Government (KSG).

But Akiyama said in an e-mail yesterday that he had no involvement with Taiwan and that he came to Harvard simply to write about and promote military cooperation between Japan and the U.S.

“Both [KSG] Dean Joseph Nye and Professor Ezra Vogel invited me to Harvard,” Akiyama wrote. “I didn’t get even a cent of money from Taiwan at all. I did [not]contact [the] Taiwan side at all. I don’t know how Harvard University raises money for academic activity in general.”

Harvard sources also denied the newspapers’ charges against Akiyama yesterday.

Ezra F. Vogel, Ford professor emeritus of the social sciences at KSG said he had worked with Akiyama when he and Nye reviewed the renewal of he U.S.-Japan defense treaty while on the National Intelligence Council.

“Mr. Akiyama was in the defense agency, and we had contact during that [review],” Vogel said.

According to Vogel, Akiyama told him of his wish to write on the U.S.-Japan alliance after his retirement. Vogel then approved Akiyama’s application in committee to study at Harvard as a distinguished fellow.

No funds were available for Akiyama’s fellowship, so James Kelly, a friend of Vogel and head of the George Washington University Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in Honolulu, helped procure the necessary funding, Vogel said.

Vogel said the amount of the funding was more than an average graduate student would receive, but far less than would be normal for a person of Akiyama’s stature.

According to Susan J. McHone, director of administration and finance at Harvard’s Asia Center, Akiyama received a $39,600 grant from the CSIS to cover his expenses from March 1999 until June 2000, and a $30,000 grant from the Yamada International Corporation for his expenses for the remainder of his time at KSG.

Vogel said CSIS often hosts former diplomats such as former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger ’50.

Kelly, who is now assistant secretary of state for East Asia, could not be personally reached for comment.

A state department official who refused to be named said Kelly had no comment.

“I am confident there is no special graft, nothing to do with Taiwan,” Vogel said. “[Akiyama] was strictly somebody who was promoting basic research. All Kelly was doing was to allow him to do that research.”

Stacy Akiyama, president of Yamada International Corporation (no relation to Masahiro Akiyama), said his company exports American-made defense products to Japan and sponsored Masahiro Akiyama at Harvard for that reason.

The Strait Times of Singapore reported Akiyama’s alleged connections to Taiwan last week as part of a series of allegations recently levelled in Taiwan against the previous administration of President Lee Teng-hui, who is accused of using public funds to buy off foreign diplomats and other influential people to lobby for Taiwanese interests in the U.S.

Taiwan, recognized by only 29 countries and thus denied most normal diplomatic channels, has been accused of giving large amounts of aid to developing countries in exchange for diplomatic recognition.

The Strait Times of Singapore could not be reached for comment.

The Sing Tao Daily also alleged that an unnamed U.S. ambassador had acted from 1997 to 1999 as a go-between for Hashimoto and Akiyama to receive money from Taiwan.

Akiyama said he had not known Kelly—now a high-ranking member of the U.S. Department of State—before receiving Kelly’s help in funding his fellowship.

The Sing Tao Daily did not reveal the sources for their allegations.