NEW BOOK URGES JAPAN TO BOLSTER INTELLIGENCE CAPABILITIES
Japan has long been viewed as a “paradise for spies.” I am afraid it still remains so today despite some changes that have been made over the years.
The US—Japan’s vital Pacific ally—has long been vigilant about the possibility that, if shared with Japan, vital intelligence could be leaked outright to countries like China and Russia. Foreign spies and operatives in Japan—especially those from China—are very fond of Japan, which they view as a very safe workplace.
Yang Hai-ying, a professor of historical anthropology at Shizuoka University, left his native Southern Mongolia in 1990—the year after the Tiananmen Incident—to study and work in Japan, becoming naturalized 21 years later, in 2011. Recalling what happened in 2008—the year Beijing hosted the 29th summer Olympics—when a Southern Mongolian refugee group moved its headquarters from Germany to Japan, Prof. Yang said:
“I heard from reliable sources that Chinese Communist Party (CCP) operatives based in Tokyo exclaimed with joy when they heard the news: ‘Thank God! They will finally be on our turf!’ Germany is generally soft on China. But their security authorities dealt very stringently with Chinese operatives in this case, never allowing them to interfere with Mongolian exiles in Germany. CCP operatives active in Japan at the time were delighted because they knew they could control Mongolian refugees in Japan with virtually no holds barred.”
In point of fact, veteran CCP operatives conducted a persistent check on each and every member of the refugee group in Japan, infiltrated the group’s headquarters to undermine its operations, and caused internal disunity until the body finally became dysfunctional. Yang is deeply chagrined at his “bitter failure” to protect Southern Mongolian refugees in Japan. But this was not his fault. Japanese security authorities are to blame for their failure to deal properly with CCP operatives violating Japanese criminal law (for example, Article 223: extortion).
Having keenly observed the loose posture of the Japan government and its citizens toward Chinese spies and operatives in Japan, former Chinese citizens naturalized in Japan earnestly sound the alarm that Japanese in general are too naïve to how much damage these agents inflict on Japan’s national interests.
Ms Yang Yi, a Chinese novelist born in Harbin, northern China, who won the prestigious Akutagawa Literary Award in 2008 for her Tiananmen book titled A Morning When Time Blurs (Bungei Shunju Ltd., Tokyo; 2011), asserts that Japan and New Zealand are the two countries most popular among the second and third generation offspring of top CCP leaders. Incidentally, New Zealand has been infiltrated by China so much over the years that it can be described as almost having been taken over by China.
“Intelligence Illiterate” Japan
What prompted these offspring of the top CCP echelon to come to live in Japan over the decades? The reason they cite apparently is: “The whole of Japan is safe and pro-China.”
Once a foreign national obtains Japanese citizenship, there rarely is a check by the authorities on how one earns his living or conducts his daily life. Besides, a former Chinese national is said to have the advantage of building an easier network of contacts in the business and political circles in this pro-Chinese nation where having been born Chinese constitutes a useful social status.
Being pro-Chinese and incautious about China’s true intentions go beyond the political and business circles. The media and academic circles follow suit, too. They refuse to see the real threat and danger of what China has up its sleeves. As a result, our national interests and our people are rarely safeguarded sufficiently despite strenuous efforts by public security forces and police personnel.
We are giving Chinese agents in Japan a virtual free hand because, in addition to the nation being generally inclined to be pro-China, we do not have a full-fledged anti-espionage law or powerful organizations to strictly control their operations. The defeat in the last war brought about a fundamental change in the nature of Japan as a normal sovereign nation. The Occupation Forces destroyed Japan’s intelligence apparatus from its foundation. It was former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who attempted to rectify the situation more than a half century later.
In his new book The State and Intelligence (Chuokoron Shin-sha Publishing Co., Tokyo: September 2021), Shigeru Kitamura, former Secretary General of Abe’s National Security Secretariat, has done a superb job depicting Japan’s post-war history, vividly recounting how the Occupation forces deprived Japan of its intelligence capabilities. Kitamura concisely cites a number of concrete examples of how long and specifically how Japan without its own intelligence apparatus has had vital intelligence easily stolen by foreign agents since the end of the war.
Kitamura, a former police bureaucrat, started serving as Director of Cabinet Intelligence under Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Democratic administration in December 2011. A major incident that shook Japan, and the world, shortly before assuming his post made Kitamura painfully aware of the weaknesses of Japan’s intelligence functions.
I am speaking here about the death, on December 19, of Kim Jong-il, Secretary General of North
Korea’s Workers’ Party.
North Korea’s state media had given advance notice three times, warning that “a special broadcast” would be made at noon on December 19. The background of the state television news program and the music played while the announcement was made were clearly subdued. North Korea, which had long posed a threat to Japan, had conducted a nuclear test five years before while continuing to lie about its abductions of Japanese citizens. It is simply incredible that in a nation that was supposedly deeply concerned about every move North Korea made, the possibility of the “special broadcast” being an announcement of extremely important matters, such as Kim’s death, had not been communicated to the prime minister’s office.
That day, Prime Minister Noda left his office shortly before noon for a scheduled address in nearby Shinbashi. He learned about Kim’s death in his car via NHK news en route. Kitamura writes that the intelligence failure of the Noda administration in this case left a deep impression on him.
How to Address Economic Security
Undoubtedly, Kitamura felt a deep sense of crisis. Unless Japan modified its method of intelligence collection and delivery to key decision makers, it clearly would not be able to meet the challenges of today’s competitive world.
When the second Abe administration (2012-2014) started, Abe began working hard to bolster Japan’s intelligence functions, first enacting the Secret Information Protection Act in December 2013. The following month, January 2014, Abe created the National Security Secretariat (NSS). Promoted to NSS’s Secretary General in 2019, Kitamura was instrumental in inaugurating an economic division in April 2020.
National security today cannot be addressed from the military point of view alone. In its 19th National Congress in the fall of 2017, the CCP accelerated its strategy of “development through Military-Civil Fusion (MCF).” While the CCP administration is tightening control toward an absolute enhancement of China’s national security by viewing the military and the civilians as one, Japan, the US, and European nations as members of the free bloc must establish a solid system under which no intelligence, military or industrial, can be stolen by China. The efforts under the Abe administration to improve Japan’s national intelligence functions were exactly along the lines of other democratic nations, including the US.
Kitamura emphasizes the importance of economic security, calling on the government and the private sector to work particularly closely together in this area. Gone is the era in which investments in corporations and research institutes, as well as protection of cutting-edge technologies, were dealt with only within the framework of economic activities. Matters relating to research at universities and students from abroad can no longer be discussed in terms of sweet stories related to a promotion of academic exchanges and relationships. As the world has already realized, China’s Thousand Talents Plan is the very essence of the intellectual property theft and the MCF that the CCP has been pursuing as part of its grand strategy.
Japan has only recently started to recognize the importance of restructuring almost everything Kitamura proposes in terms of economic security and academic/economic research, which he links closely to broader national security issues.
I believe Kitamura’s repeated emphasis on the need for a full-fledged strengthening of Japan’s intelligence functions is a warning all Japanese need to heed.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 966 in the September 16, 2021 issue of The Weekly Shincho)