Police have questioned a former senior Defense Agency engineering officer and searched his home on suspicion he gave copies of confidential submarine documents to an acquaintance who may have leaked the information to China, according to informed sources.

Investigators allege that the 63-year-old engineer copied documents on the submarines’ strength to resist attacks and took them out without authorization around February or March 2000 while working at the Defense Agency’s Technical Research and Development Institute, the sources said.

The police searched his home, current office and other places in the middle of March and confiscated his computer and a technical report on steel for submarines.

The engineer, whose name has been withheld, told the police he gave the documents to an acquaintance — a 53-year-old former president of a trading company, according to the sources.

The acquaintance, who was also being questioned, admitted receiving the documents but did not speak in detail about their contents, according to the sources.

Investigators have confirmed that the acquaintance has been in contact with people with military connections in China and suspect he may have passed the information to them.

The police believe the documents may contain materials that were categorized as classified, top secret or confidential at that time.

When approached by Kyodo News, the engineer declined to comment, saying, “There is nothing to talk about.”

The engineer joined the Defense Agency in 1971 and was an expert in metal strength. He was involved in research on submarine structures and parts for many years before retiring in March 2002. He now works in a defense-related company providing technical advice.

The sources said the engineer’s acquaintance was president of a trading firm involved in business with China and Taiwan until a few years ago and that he had visited China many times. It is believed he met people in the Chinese military.

The two became acquaintances some 20 years ago when the former trading company president used to visit the Defense Agency to deliver products, the sources said.

The Technical Research and Development Institute conducts research, tests and evaluations on Self-Defense Forces equipment, including tanks, combat aircraft and weapons.

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