LONDON – The KGB considered releasing radioactive material in Tokyo Bay in the late 1960s, which it hoped would be blamed on American submarines and thereby damage Japanese-U.S. relations, according to a book published Monday by a former KGB archivist.
“The Mitrokhin Archive II,” written by Vasili Mitrokhin, reveals several sabotage plans by KGB officers to sour Tokyo-Washington relations.
The book discloses that Foreign Ministry officials, journalists and politicians from both the right and the left were helping the Soviet Union during the 1960s and 1970s.
Mitrokhin was a senior KGB archivist from 1948 to 1984. He smuggled sensitive foreign intelligence to his home and took it with him when he defected to Britain in 1992.
The first volume of his archives was published in 1999. He died in 2004.
In the new book, cowritten by historian Christopher Andrew, Mitrokhin reveals that in 1969, KGB officers in Tokyo considered a plan to scatter radioactive material in Tokyo Bay in the expectation it would be blamed by the public on nuclear submarines based at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.
The plan was vetoed by senior officers, who feared it would be difficult to obtain U.S. radioactive material, and getting it from somewhere else could have provided a trail back to Moscow.
The book also discloses a plan to have a Japanese agent leave a bomb planted in a book in the American Cultural Center in Tokyo in October 1965 at the time of demonstrations against the Vietnam War.
To conceal its hand in the operation, the KGB was prepared to publish leaflets purporting to come from Japanese nationalists calling for attacks on U.S. property.
Mitrokhin reveals ultimately unsuccessful attempts by the Soviet intelligence service to kill a revised security treaty between Japan and the U.S. in 1960.
He claims the KGB helped foster a Japanese student protest targeting President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s press secretary, James Hagerty. Later, senior KGB officials took some of the credit when Eisenhower’s trip to Japan was canceled due to safety concerns.
The KGB stationed in Tokyo managed to get bogus secret annexes to the proposed revised treaty published. These purported to continue terms in the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty regarding the use of U.S. troops to quell civil unrest in Japan, and to extend Japanese-U.S. military cooperation from the Soviet Pacific to the Chinese coast.
One of the major preoccupations for Soviet agents was to reconnoiter sabotage targets in the event of a war between the Soviet Union and NATO countries.
Mitrokhin discloses that in 1962, agents made preparations to sabotage four major oil refineries in Japan as well as U.S. bases in Okinawa. They also identified four sites on the northwest coast of Hokkaido that could be used as wartime bases for KGB officers.
The former archivist reveals that the KGB had two valuable agents, code-named Rengo and Emma, based in the Foreign Ministry. They provided large amounts of material between the late 1960s and 1979. Emma reportedly used a small camera fitted to her handbag to copy sensitive documents.
The KGB used a Russian-language teacher to seduce a Japanese diplomat in Moscow into working for them, according to the book.
Similar techniques were used to recruit a Japanese cipher clerk in Moscow, code-named Nazar, who also helped Moscow on his return to Tokyo. Information he passed on included traffic between Tokyo and Washington.
The book notes, “There must have been moments when, thanks to Nazar and Soviet code-breakers, the Japanese Foreign Ministry was, without knowing it, practicing something akin to open diplomacy in its dealings with the Soviet Union.”
The KGB recruited journalists and politicians to work as agents during the 1970s. They were used mainly to lobby on behalf of the Soviet Union, rather than provide useful intelligence. By autumn 1979, the KGB had 31 agents and 24 confidential contacts, according to Mitrokhin.
The book reveals that the KGB managed to collect a large amount of technological information from Japanese companies, particularly in the field of computers.
Mitrokhin concluded that although the Soviets spent a lot of money on operations in Japan, they failed to truly achieve their goals or improve Moscow’s image.
“Though the KGB offensive in Japan generated many tactical operational successes, it ended in strategic failure. The enormous quantity of S&T (science and technology intelligence) collected by Line X (KGB section) from the West and Japan could not save the Soviet system from economic collapse,” the book says.
Mitrokhin’s book, whose U.S. edition is titled “The World Was Going Our Way,” also recounts how Soviet spies flopped in Iraq, failing to win over Saddam Hussein or sufficiently bolster his opponents, including Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s current president.
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