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Chinese diplomat accused of spying on Japanese military

Embassy official was apparently attached to PLA

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A Chinese diplomat with links to the People’s Liberation Army has been accused of snooping on Japanese military technology data while working in Tokyo.

Police in the Japanese capital are preparing to send documents to district prosecutors which allege that 45-year-old Li Chunguang submitted false papers when renewing his alien registration card in 2008, and broke international diplomatic laws by engaging in business activities whilst working as first secretary at the Chinese Embassy.

Li is suspected to have snooped on confidential documents belonging to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries ministry and also met several defence contractors whilst failing to mention his Chinese military background, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

There was no further information on exactly what kind of military tech was involved , although it was described as “state-of-the-art” by the 'paper.

Unsurprisingly, the China government denied all the allegations against Li and neatly side-stepped the question of his involvement in the PLA. Foreign ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin responded with the following:

Li Chunguang is a scholar who has long been engaged in Japan studies. 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. With regard to other aspects of the information, competent Chinese authorities will verify them.

China often takes advantage of the diplomatic privileges afforded to embassy staff in order to engage in espionage away from the scrutiny of counter-intelligence agencies, the Yomiuri claimed.

Its other key method of pilfering top secret data from its rivals is of course cyber espionage.

In September 2011, defence contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which makes fighter jets and other kit for the Japan Self Defence Force, was hit by a large scale advanced attack using software containing simplified Chinese.

The Pentagon has stepped up its criticism of such activities recently as more damming evidence comes to light.

A report last month, for example, claimed that “Chinese actors are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage”.

Not that the US can be entirely blameless in the cyber espionage stakes and risks an escalation in attacks against it, after more evidence emerged that Stuxnet was authorised from the very top during the Bush administration and then continued by president Obama. ®

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