The government Friday condemned China for blackmailing a Japanese diplomat in Shanghai two years ago for intelligence, driving him to commit suicide.

The accusation came amid already tense bilateral relations that have worsened over the past year with several incidents, including reaction to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s annual trip to the contentious Yasukuni Shrine.

“As a result of our investigation, we found that the direct cause of the (diplomat’s) suicide was an extraordinary threat, intimidation and similar actions by Chinese intelligence officers,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said. “We acknowledged that it was a very cruel and inhuman threat, and was intimidation.”

The government’s top spokesman said Tokyo reached the conclusion after it did its best to investigate the May 6, 2004, suicide of the 46-year-old head of the Shanghai mission’s encrypted communications section, which handled classified communications with the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.

His comments came after the Yomiuri Shimbun published a report earlier in the day that it had obtained a suicide letter written by the man, who was believed blackmailed into providing secrets, including diplomats’ contacts in China, over an affair he was having with a woman Chinese intelligence agents pressured into participating.

The Yomiuri said the letter to the consul general told the story of what happened to him, detailing the pressure put on him by the Chinese. It was signed and dated May 5, 2004.

The report says the diplomat was pressed to give names and backgrounds of all the consular officials and the names of their local contacts.

“The actions appear to have violated the Vienna Convention,” Abe said. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations guarantees the inviolability of diplomats.

After the story broke in the media in December, Beijing slammed Tokyo’s allegation, calling it “vicious” behavior that tainted China’s image.

Later in the day, Koizumi also told reporters: “We have made a protest (to China on the issue). And Japan must be careful not to let it happen again, as there could be honey traps anywhere.”

According to the Yomiuri report, the man said in his note that he killed himself over the incident, which began with an affair he was having with an unidentified woman working at a karaoke bar.

Chinese intelligence officers detained the woman in June 2003 on suspicion of prostitution, but released her after convincing her to act as liaison between them and the man, the Yomiuri reported the letter as saying.

Fearing the affair would be revealed, he began meeting with someone from the Chinese government — a man who identified himself as the captain of a public safety squad and a female interpreter — from December of that year, the newspaper said.

The letter reportedly says the captain pressured the man to give him the names of all the local contacts the consular officials had in China, saying: “You’re a telecommunications officer. I know all the reports are sent through you. Give me the names of Chinese people consulate officials have met.”

The Foreign Ministry remained silent on the suicide for 1 1/2 years, until the Japanese media broke the story last December.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.