A senior vice minister at the farm ministry admitted Wednesday he had met the Chinese diplomat suspected of spying, among other unlawful activities, a revelation the opposition plans to press the government about in the Diet.
Nobutaka Tsutsui, senior vice minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, told reporters they met at his office while leading a project to promote Japanese agricultural exports to China, but denied any “close ties” to the diplomat or that he had ever given him classified material.
The 45-year-old diplomat at the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo left Japan after rejecting a request by Tokyo police to submit to questioning in mid-May over allegations he opened bank accounts using fraudulent documents and engaged in commercial activities in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Michihiko Kano said Wednesday he has ordered a team headed by the ministry’s senior vice minister, Tsukasa Iwamoto, to investigate whether any classified information was leaked to the diplomat.
The team is set to question Tsutsui and complete a midterm report by early June.
“As there have been media reports (suggesting a leak), it is important that we investigate appropriately,” Kano said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a press conference that the government would make sure the investigative team “gets the facts straight.”
The diplomat was involved in a project, launched in December 2010 by Tsutsui and a Chinese state-owned firm, to introduce agricultural products at a fair in Beijing to promote Japanese firms in the Chinese market, according to ministry sources.
A secretary of a Lower House member close to Kano pushed for the project as an adviser to the farm ministry.
The secretary later became the representative of the council behind the project and was actively involved in raising funds from member companies and in negotiations with the Chinese.
The fair, scheduled for last summer, was put off due to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crisis triggered by the March 11 megaquake and tsunami. Meanwhile, negotiations between China and Japan on the subsequent quarantine have not progressed.
According to the sources, the Chinese diplomat met repeatedly with Tsutsui and the secretary, and he also accompanied a ministry official on an inspection trip to Hokkaido.
The Liberal Democratic Party and its ally, New Komeito, agreed Wednesday to raise questions in the Diet regarding any involvement between Tsutsui, or other senior ranking government officials, and the Chinese diplomat.
At their meeting Wednesday, LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara and his New Komeito counterpart, Yoshihisa Inoue, said their parties will take up the issue “with grave concern” in view of the fact that the diplomat had extensive contact with members of Japan’s political and business circles.
In another development, the Contemporary Asian Economy Research Institute and Hamamatsu University said Wednesday the diplomat had falsified his resume to say he had been a visiting researcher at the private university in Shizuoka Prefecture between 2002 and 2004. The resume was submitted to the Tokyo research institute, to which he belongs as a researcher.
The institute said it did not verify his record when it uploaded his resume onto its home page, while the university said the diplomat only participated in a Japan-China joint seminar in 2001 and was not employed as a visiting researcher.
The Chinese side asked the university if the diplomat could be employed but the talks were never concluded, the university said.
The diplomat, whose name was not provided, was fluent in Japanese and received a master’s degree in local administration from Fukushima University in 1997, reports said Tuesday.