Reports point to NSA espionage in Japan

News & Views - November 7th, 2013
NSA activities

Alleged US espionage on Japan could seriously hurt ties between the two defense allies, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said, following reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) has spied on other countries, including Asian nations.

The New York Times ran a report claiming that the US has extensive intelligence networks in both friendly and hostile countries, and covertly gathered information on military, economy and foreign policy.

Japan was found to be among the countries under the NSA’s surveillance, raising concerns that the US may have accessed information deemed classified.

The US was spying on Japan for its ability to obtain and produce “critical strategic technology,” the report said. The NSA was also interested in Japan’s foreign policy and to ensure the US maintained an upper hand economically over the world’s third-largest economy.

Japan’s defense minister voiced serious concern if these reports were confirmed, saying it would mar relations.

“We do not want to believe this kind of report,” Itsunori Onodera told a press briefing Tuesday. “But I do not think such actions are desirable as they are eroding trust between friendly states, including allies.”

Onodera added he has only heard about alleged US covert surveillance of Japan through media reports, and not directly from the US government itself.

The controversy over the US’ global espionage operations has seemingly spread to Asia after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the US has been targeting countries it considers allies.

It was recently revealed that Australian diplomatic missions have helped the US to monitor phone calls and other communications in Asia, according to a report by the Sydney Morning Herald.

The intelligence activities took place in several Australian Embassies located in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand.

Other reports claim that NSA was spying on 38 foreign embassies located on US soil, including key allies and partners in Asia, such as South Korea, Japan, and India. The NSA’s main target in Asia was China, it said.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image of Defense Minister Onodera: Secretary of Defense/Flickr