Japan is setting up its first fully-fledged post-war foreign spy service, modelled on the CIA and Britain’s MI6, according to a classified US cable obtained by WikiLeaks, a report said Monday.
The new intelligence service aims to spy on China and North Korea and to gather information to prevent terrorist attacks, said Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, citing a US cable WikiLeaks exclusively provided to the daily.
The espionage unit is being created under the wing of Japan’s top intelligence agency, the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office (Naicho), which reports to the prime minister, the Herald said.
Then-Naicho director Hideshi Mitani revealed in 2008 that a “human intelligence collection capability” was a priority, in talks with then head of the US State Department’s bureau of intelligence and research, Randall Fort.
Two former Japanese prime ministers of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, Yasuo Fukuda and Taro Aso, had kicked off the project, according to a secret cable to Washington from the US embassy in Tokyo.
“The decision has been made to go very slowly with this process as the Japanese realise that they lack knowledge, experience, and assets/officers,” the US embassy cable said, according to the Herald.
“A training process for new personnel will be started soon.”
Japanese officials had told Fort that Japan’s most pressing intelligence priorities were “China and North Korea, as well as on collecting intelligence information to prevent terrorist attacks”.
Fort had urged Japanese officials to tap “underutilised assets” in the worldwide network of Japanese businesses and trading companies.
An expert on intelligence issues in Japan, who asked not to be named, told AFP that Japan does not yet have an operational “human intelligence branch”.
Japan does not seek to recruit foreign nationals as agents or informants, the expert said, instead relying on Japanese businessmen and journalists abroad to gather intelligence, paying them out of “secret funds” controlled by the foreign ministry and cabinet office.