Japan: Chinese 'spy' tried to obtain military tech data

Summary:Chinese diplomat allegedly tried to fradulently obtain information related to military technology from several Japanese defense companies. China, however, dismiss espionage allegations as "groundless".

Japanese authorities have accused a Chinese diplomat of engaging in espionage, contacting officials at several Japanese defense companies for information on military technology. China, however, has denied any wrongdoing and dismissed allegations as "groundless".

According to a report Thursday by Japanese news daily Yomiuri Shimbun, citing investigative sources, the Japanese police said Li Chunguang tried to fradulently obtain information related to military technology in the country. Li, who is also first secretary to the Chinese embassy in Tokyo, was said to have viewed contents of confidential agriculture, forestry and fisheries ministry documents.

Li allegedly had met with officials at several Japanese defense companies and officials of organizations engaged in researching state-of-the-art technology in Tokyo and other locations in the country, but did not disclose he was attached to an intelligence department of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA), the sources told Yomiuri Shimbun. They added that some company officials were also invited by Li to visit the Chinese Embassy.

Japan's Metropolitan Police Department Public Security Bureau believed Li had been engaged in espionage and was instructed to gain military information by the PLA. They also planned to send papers carrying his details to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of violating the Alien Registration Law, and for making false entries on notarized documents and using these documents.

According to Japanese authorities, Li in early-2008 had fradulently used his alien registration card, which he obtained as a researcher at University of Tokyo, to open a bank account. He was suspected of renewing the registration card in April 2008 by submitting false documents to a ward office in Tokyo, showing him still as a researcher in the university. Under the bank account, he allegedly profited from commercial activities.

Alien registration cards are issued to foreign residents and carry information such as the resident's name and residency status. Under the Alien Registration Law, foreign residents must apply for the card at their municipal government within 90 days of entering Japan and present it if asked by the police.

China denies espionage allegations
In a press conference Wednesday, China's foreign ministry spokesperson, Liu Weimin, confirmed the name of a diplomat Japan suspected of spying as Li Chunguang, but denied Li was engaged in espionage.

"Li Chunguang is a scholar who has long been engaged in Japan studies," Liu said. "He was later seconded from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences to the economic section of the Chinese Embassy in Japan. He has returned to China after the end of his term. The so-called press report of Li Chunguang engaging in espionage activities is totally groundless."

Yang Yu, a spokesperson from Chinese Embassy of Japan also denied allegations Li worked for the PLA's intelligence division, calling reports "groundless [and] absurd".

Topics: Networking, China, Data Management, Government, IT Employment, Legal, Security

About

Elly grew up on the adrenaline of crime fiction and it spurred her interest in cybercrime, privacy and the terror on the dark side of IT. At ZDNet Asia, she has made it her mission to warn readers of upcoming security threats, while also covering other tech issues.

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