Cable leak: Japan has spy agency

SYDNEY (Kyodo) Japan has established a secret foreign intelligence unit for the first time since the war to spy on China and North Korea and gather information to prevent a terrorist attack, according to an Australian report Monday citing a classified U.S. cable obtained by WikiLeaks.

The Sydney Morning Herald and other Fairfax newspapers said the cable provided exclusively to them shows a spy unit has been created under the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office and modeled on such Western intelligence services as the CIA 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, and Director Hideshi Mitani of Japan’s agency revealed a shift in Japanese attitudes for the first time since World War II and signaled that a having a “human intelligence collection capability” was a priority.

A secret cable to Washington by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo indicates the decision was made by the then Liberal Democratic Party government led by Yasuo Fukuda until September 2008 and upheld by his successor, Taro Aso, whose party was defeated in the August 2009 election that brought the Democratic Party of Japan to power after decades of LDP rule.

“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 cable also revealed Japan’s lack of information on North Korea, with 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 had published a memoir.