A total of 575 Defense Agency employees, including Self-Defense Forces personnel, have traveled abroad without informing their superiors, agency officials said Friday.

Defense Agency employees are required to get approval from their superiors when planning trips overseas.

The agency handed questionnaires about travel abroad to its 260,000 employees from mid-August to early September and received responses from 99.9 percent.

Of the 575 employees who took unauthorized trips, 328 are in the SDF and 247 are administrative workers.

Of the 328 SDF members, 178 are in the Maritime Self-Defense Force, 75 in the Air Self-Defense Force and 58 in the Ground Self-Defense Force. The other 17 are in other organizations.

A total of 1,117 unauthorized trips were made by the 575 employees, the survey said.

A breakdown of the destinations shows 19 percent went to South Korea, 10 percent to the United States, and 8 percent to the Philippines. China was seventh on the list, accounting for 6 percent of the trips.

Most of the respondents who took the unauthorized trips said they were for sightseeing, and many said they did not apply for permission because there was no time or it was too much of a bother.

The agency is considering punishing 162 employees for about 235 unapproved trips taken since January 2005.

The agency conducted the survey after an MSDF member was found in August to have had made frequent trips to China without permission. The officer had also taken home MSDF data on foreign submarines, causing police to investigate whether he had been leaking information.

The 45-year-old petty officer 1st rank, based in Nagasaki Prefecture, visited Shanghai to see a Chinese woman, sources said.

The woman had at one time worked at a karaoke bar frequented by the Japanese Consulate General cryptographer who committed suicide in May 2004. The cryptographer left a suicide note stating the Chinese woman had blackmailed him into passing her information from the consulate.

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