• Kyodo

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Ministries and state agencies had named 382 subjects as secrets requiring protection under the new secrecy law as of the end of December, the government said Friday. Most of the items concerned defense and diplomacy.

Of the total, the Defense Ministry listed 247 subjects as “specially designated secrets,” 85 of them concerning cryptographic codes, 54 regarding the design and performance of equipment such as submarines and planes, and 25 regarding the activities of the Self-Defense Forces, the Cabinet Secretariat said.

The Cabinet Secretariat itself filed the second-highest number, at 49, mostly regarding intelligence operations, including information sources and the secret codes used by the Foreign Ministry.

Under the law, 19 ministries and agencies can designate as state secrets information deemed to be sensitive in the areas of defense, diplomacy, counterterrorism and counterespionage. However, nine had not done so by the end of December.

The law cleared the Diet in December 2013 and took effect last month.

Civil servants or others who leak designated secrets will face up to 10 years in prison, and those who incite leaks, including journalists, will be subject to a prison term of up to five years.

Critics have argued that the definition of such “specially designated secrets” is vague, and allows the government to withhold information at its own discretion.

Criticism has also been directed at the absence of an independent checking mechanism, as the new oversight entities are under government control.

To ease public concerns, the Cabinet approved guidelines on the handling of state secrets, saying that it will keep “the minimum amount of information as secrets for the shortest period of time possible,” because the public’s right to know should be “greatly respected” in a democratic society.