China slammed over diplomat’s suicide

by Reiji Yoshida

Tokyo has lodged protests with Beijing four times since last year over the 2004 suicide of a diplomat at the Japanese Consulate General in Shanghai, claiming China violated an international treaty by trying to blackmail him for intelligence, government sources admitted Wednesday.

According to a report by the Yomiuri Shimbun, the diplomat, who was in charge of encryption of classified communications, left suicide notes saying he had been blackmailed by a man believed belonging to the Chinese public security agency who was seeking confidential information.

Other reports said the blackmail was linked to the victim’s relationship with a hostess, and that the intelligence solicited included Tokyo-bound communications and data on Japan’s encryption system, the names of the consulate’s staff and of flights used to carry classified documents to Japan.

It was further reported that the man left notes to his family and the consul general saying he refused to sell out his country.

Yoshinori Katori, press secretary of the Foreign Ministry, acknowledged Wednesday the man killed himself on May 6, 2004, and the government lodged protests with Beijing. He declined to confirm other facts of the man’s death, citing the need to protect privacy.

“We believe people with the Chinese public security authority conducted regrettable actions that violated” Article 40 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Katori said.

The article obliges a host to “take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on the person, freedom or dignity” of consular officers. “We have filed strong protests since this incident happened,” he said, adding Beijing has not given a “satisfactory response.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe declined to confirm details of the suicide during a news conference Wednesday but indicated Tokyo believes China tried to blackmail the diplomat.

“Generally speaking, if a country commits blackmail or extortion against a consular official, this would violate the international convention,” he said.

According to a senior government official, Japan lodged protests twice in 2004 and twice this month. Tokyo reportedly also asked Beijing to investigate.

The latest protest was filed by Hiroyuki Izumi, head of the China and Mongolia Division of the Foreign Ministry, during his trip to China on Dec. 19, and Kenichiro Sasae, head of Asian and Oceania Affairs Bureau, filed another one on Dec. 27 with the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo, the official said.

No trip to Yasukuni

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi indicated Wednesday he will not visit the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine during the New Year’s holidays, but has no plans to chance his stance on the contentious visits.

Koizumi has visited the Shinto shrine in Tokyo once a year since taking office in April 2001, including New Year’s Day in 2004 and last Oct. 17, raising the ire of China and South Korea.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday — the last working day of 2005 — the prime minister repeated his earlier statements that exchanges in economic and other areas with the two countries are developing despite the Yasukuni issue.

“There must be no change in the mutual stance to promote friendly relations,” Koizumi reckoned. “Japan needs to take steps to get understanding in this regard, and I want China and South Korea also to consider the matter.”

Asked if he has any plans to visit Yasukuni during the New Year’s holidays, Koizumi said, “Take a good vacation because the first day of work is Jan. 4,” referring to the date when government offices reopen for business.

Angered by Koizumi’s repeated visits to the shrine, which honors Class-A war criminals as well as the war dead, China and South Korea have called off recent summits.

The prime minister is still expected to visit Yasukuni again before he before he steps down as prime minister in September, when his term as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party expires.

Koizumi also touched on the issue of his successor, reiterating he wanted someone “who takes over the conventional reform line” to be chosen to lead the country.

“The LDP presidential election must be the most significant matter of concern” for domestic politics in 2006, Koizumi said. “I want it to draw public attention.”

He urged potential leadership candidates to “make preparations from this moment with an awareness and sense of responsibility that the president of the LDP becomes the prime minister of Japan.”

Among those expected to run for party leadership are Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki.

Koizumi said 2005 was an “unforgettable year in my life,” referring to the LDP’s landslide victory in the Sept. 11 House of Representatives election.