SYDNEY — Japan has established a secret foreign intelligence unit for the first time since World War II to spy on China and North Korea and gather information to prevent a terrorist attack, according to an Australian report on Feb. 21 citing whistleblower Website WikiLeaks.
The Sydney Morning Herald and other Fairfax newspapers said a U.S. diplomatic cable shows a spy unit has been created under Japan’s Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office modeled on Western intelligence services such as the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the British Secret Intelligence Service known as MI6.
According to the report, a discussion in October 2008 between the former head of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Research and Intelligence Randall Fort with Director Hideshi Mitani of Japan’s agency revealed a shift in Japanese attitudes for the first time since World War II and signaling a “human intelligence collection capability” was a priority.
A secret cable to Washington by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo indicates the decision was taken by the then Liberal Democratic government led by Yasuo Fukuda until September 2008 and upheld by his successor Taro Aso who was defeated in the August 2009 election.
“The decision has been made to go very slowly with this process as the Japanese realize that they lack knowledge, experience, and assets/officers. A training process for new personnel will be started soon,” the embassy told Washington in the leaked cable.
The report also said Fort was told by the then head of the internal security agency Toshio Yanagi that Japan’s most pressing intelligence priorities were “China and North Korea, as well as on collecting intelligence information to prevent terrorist attacks.”
It also revealed Japan’s lack of information on North Korea, with the agency head Mitani frankly admitting to his U.S. counterpart that Japan’s best insights into Kim Jong Il were through his former sushi chef Kenji Fujimoto who published a memoir.