Information security is difficult to achieve in a digital age, but the Defense Ministry appears to have a serious problem after another apparent leak of a sensitive document Wednesday, the second in only two months.
During the day’s Upper House session, Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Sohei Nihi unveiled what he said were confidential records of meetings between senior U.S. and Japanese military officials at the U.S. Defense Department in Washington, late last year.
The 23-page paper, dated Dec. 24, 2014, allegedly relates the content of discussions between Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of the Joint Staff of the Self-Defense Forces, and seven top U.S. military leaders, both civilian and uniformed.
The U.S. officials included U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Raymond Odierno, then Chief of Army Staff, and Scott Swift, then Navy Staff director within the office of the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon.
According to the document, during a Dec. 17 meeting with Odierno, Kawano said he believed the Diet will enact two contested security bills by the end of this summer. The bills are aimed at expanding Japan’s military cooperation with the U.S. military and the assertion that they would be passed was at that time one step ahead of the stance of the government in Tokyo.
In a 30-minute meeting with Work, Kawano allegedly maintained that “only certain activists are stirring up” safety concerns over Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft operated by the U.S. military in Japan, a remark that is likely to draw protest from the Okinawa Prefectural Government — where demonstrations over a range of U.S.-related issues are frequent.
Many Okinawa residents have demanded the removal of Ospreys from the prefecture, citing the model’s record of accidents early in its history.
During the Upper House session, Nihi argued that Kawano went too far in discussing political issues, in particular by giving assurances on when the controversial security bills would be enacted. Opposition parties have called the proposed changes unconstitutional and have demanded their retraction.
Furthermore, it is taboo for SDF officers to talk politics in Japan, where memories remain of the nation’s militarism before and during World War II.
Kawano visited the Pentagon “only a few days after the general election of December. At that time, (the government) had not started concrete studies on bills yet, and neither had the ruling parties started having policy talks on them,” Nihi said.
In response, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said he would not comment because he could not verify authenticity of the document.
Meanwhile the paper appears to show Kawano questioning whether Beijing was at that time fully in control of government ships deployed off the disputed Senkaku islets in the East China Sea. China claims the islets, which it refers to as Diaoyu.
During a 30-minute meeting that took place on Dec. 18, Kawano told Gen. Larry O. Spencer, vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, that two or three Chinese government ships were always stationed near the Senkakus.
“I can’t say anything for sure . . . but I wonder if (the Chinese forces) are fully controlled by the Chinese central government,” Kawano was quoted as saying in the records.
The document shows Kawano cited an instance in which a Chinese aircraft flew abnormally close to SDF aircraft, although he did not specify when the occasion occurred. In another, a Chinese naval ship had directed fire-control radar at a Maritime Self-Defense Force ship.
It is unclear how the Japanese Communist Party obtained the document, but it is assumed that the group has sources inside the SDF. In August, the party divulged another internal SDF document, which the SDF later admitted was genuine.
That paper, drafted by the SDF’s Joint Staff at Nakatani’s order, envisioned an SDF mission in which troops would use weapons to defend a third-party state’s troops participating in United Nations peacekeeping operations in South Sudan.
It also assumed that the security bills would be enacted in August and they would be put into effect in February 2016.