A Maritime Self-Defense Force petty officer based in Nagasaki Prefecture took several unauthorized trips to Shanghai to visit a Chinese woman who worked at a local karaoke bar, prompting police to investigate him on suspicion of leaking military information, sources said Wednesday.
Japanese intelligence authorities are interested in the trips because the karaoke bar was once frequented by a Shanghai Consulate official in charge of encrypted communications who committed suicide in 2004 after being blackmailed by Chinese security authorities to provide intelligence information allegedly in exchange for keeping secret his affair with a woman who worked at the same bar.
Nagasaki Prefectural Police are investigating whether the unnamed sailor, who was stationed at the Kamitsushima Guard Post on Tsushima Island, a key chokepoint for ships transiting the area, from April 2004 to last month to monitor vessels, passed on any information to China.
According to the MSDF staff office in Tokyo, the 45-year-old sailor copied a large volume compact disc loaded with photos to identify foreign vessels and submarines, and kept them in his dormitory room.
The MSDF said the data are not classified and their unauthorized handling is not a violation of the Self-Defense Forces Law.
However, caution is advised when handling the reference material and unauthorized use is a violation of MSDF regulations.
The sailor was verbally reprimanded in June for unauthorized handling of the information, and was suspended for 10 days from July 4 for the unauthorized trips.
MSDF brass searched the sailor’s room but didn’t find any evidence that the CD or any other confidential information were taken off post, the staff office said.
The CD copy and the visits were discovered when the sailor, who didn’t know how to copy a CD, asked a colleague for help.
According to the sources, someone reported to a superior officer in the spring that the man was secretly copying CDs while on night duty as well as visiting China without authorization to see a Chinese woman with whom he was having an affair.
The petty officer was quoted as telling the Sasebo regional general headquarters that he “made a copy just once in February” to help him learn more about foreign vessels. He admitted taking it to his room but claimed he never took it out of the country.
The man also has admitted he made eight trips to China between January 2005 and last March. He said that on his first trip, he got to know the woman at the karaoke bar, which caters to Japanese, the sources said.
The MSDF staff office said the sailor has denied giving any military information to the woman.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe would not confirm reports about the case, but admitted police have launched an investigation.
Experts say China is very interested in acquiring submarine technology. Submarines are the mainstay of the Chinese Navy, which has no aircraft carriers.
China relies on Russia for its submarines and is believed to be lagging behind other nations in developing its own technology.
A Japanese public security official said China’s intelligence gathering is typically done by Chinese businessmen and researchers working in the private sector.