The Japanese Embassy in Kuwait gave refuge to 16 American diplomats and their families shortly after Iraq's invasion, then helped them escape from the emirate, Foreign Ministry officials said Thursday.

The Japanese had kept silent about the matter because it feared any publicity might lead to Iraqi reprisals against Japanese citizens held in Kuwait, the officials said.Its announcement now was seen as reflecting Japan's eagerness to show that it has contributed more than money to the international efforts to force Iraq to relinquish Kuwait.