WikiLeaks unveils Japanese spy agency
February 21, 2011
FOR the first time since World War II, Japan is establishing a secret foreign intelligence service to spy on China and North Korea and gather information to prevent terrorist attacks.
The spy unit has been created under the wing of Japan's peak intelligence agency, the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office, or Naicho. It is modelled on Western intelligence services such as the CIA, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and Britain's MI6.
The existence of the new Japanese espionage capability is revealed in a leaked US diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to the Herald.
Japanese military and naval intelligence, together with the infamous secret police, the Kempeitai, ran extensive spy networks throughout east and south-east Asia up to the end of World War II.
Successive postwar governments in Tokyo have been reluctant to establish a foreign espionage service for fear of diplomatic risks.
But in an October 2008 discussion with Randall Fort, the then head of the US State Department's bureau of intelligence and research, the Naicho director, Hideshi Mitani, revealed that a ''human intelligence collection capability'' was a priority.
A secret report cabled to Washington by the US embassy in Tokyo indicates that the decision was taken by the former Liberal Democratic Party government headed until September 2008 by the then prime minister Yasuo Fukuda, and his successor, Taro Aso.
''The decision has been made to go very slowly with this process as the Japanese realise that they lack knowledge, experience, and assets/officers. A training process for new personnel will be started soon,'' the embassy reported.
The then head of the internal security agency, Toshio Yanagi, told Mr Fort that Japan's most pressing intelligence priorities were ''China and North Korea, as well as on collecting intelligence information to prevent terrorist attacks''.
The leaked cables reveal that later in 2006 Mr Fort urged officials to tap the ''underutilised assets'' in the worldwide network of Japanese businesses and trading companies.
Tokyo's need for intelligence collection to complement its signals and technical intelligence capabilities was supported by candid admissions to American counterparts about the lack of information on North Korea's secretive leadership.
According to the US embassy's report, Mr Mitani said that while Japanese intelligence believed the ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was well enough to make decisions, they were ''in the dark'' about how he passed them on.