China has demanded Japan recall its military attache caught out stealing China's military information, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan at a regular news briefing on Nov. 14.
When asked about the matter, Kong said that Hiromasa Amano, military attache of the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, had stealthily entered a forbidden military zone in east China's Zhejiang Province without authorization and had been caught out taking photos. Such an act constitutes theft of Chinese military information.
Hiromasa had been caught on the spot and confessed everything, Kong said, adding that Hiromasa had showed repentance for his actions.
The spokesman said Hiromasa had violated China's laws on national security, military installations and exit-entry.
His actions were gravely incompatible with his capacity as a diplomat, Kong said, and under such circumstances, China demands Horimasa be recalled.
How Hiromasa entered the forbidden zone?
Hiromasa's being recalled has hit headlines of Japanese media, and the Japan Times, a quite influential Japan-based English-language newspaper, carried detailed reports on the matter on November 15.
"A Japanese defense attache at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing was expelled by Chinese authorities in effect on the grounds that he had entered a forbidden military area in the city of Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, Foreign Ministry and Defense Agency officials said Thursday."
According to Japan Times, "the government had the attache returned to Japan on Wednesday after Beijing demanded him to voluntarily leave the country, the officials said."
"According to Defense Agency officials, Maritime Self-Defense Force Capt. Hiromasa Amano, 43, was detained by Chinese Navy officials in front of a military facility's gate in the city Oct. 26 when he entered the area in a taxi."
Defense Agency officials didn't deny that Hiromasa was caught in the act when he was on a six-day "inspection tour" to Ningbo city, home to the command post of the Chinese Navy's East Sea Fleet. However, the officials didn't explain how Hiromasa entered the forbidden zone when making his "inspection tour". On the contrary, they insisted on two points. First, Hiromasa "was not aware the area was off-limits", for he was in a taxi. Second, he was caught outside the gate of the military facility so he couldn't go deeper. Then, "he was confined to a hotel room for questioning by Chinese security officials for 13 hours until early the next morning, they said, adding that his notebook, voice recorder and data cards for his camera and video camera were confiscated by Chinese authorities".
"Japanese Ambassador to China Koreshige Anami lodged a protest with the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Nov. 1 that the long detention of a foreign attache violates the Vienna Convention, the officials said. However, the government had Amano returned voluntarily because it would no longer be possible for him to continue his duties as attache in the country, they said", according to Japan Times.
Although the remarks of Japanese officials are not completely in accord with that of Chinese spokesman, at least the Japanese side admitted the following facts: Japanese attache entered China's forbidden military zone without authorization, and he was then equipped with a number of spying devices.
Japanese attaches, open information collectors
Hiromasa is the third military attache expelled after World War II, the Japan Times said. In 1987 and 1996, Japanese attaches in Moscow and Beijing were expelled respectively for stealing military information. In the 1996 case, an American and a Japanese attache came to south China's Hainan Province, intending to collecting data on Chinese navy's new type submarine. As a result they were caught on the spot by Chinese security staff, and found carrying with them related photos and videotapes. Then both two were driven out of Chinese land.
Then what on earth a role do Japanese attaches play?
To talk about this we must start with the respective information systems of Japanese government and army, and we can not talk about this without mentioning the Cabinet Information Collect Center, Japan's top information body founded in April 1952 under the incitement of CIA. Now its main task is to collect information of China, Russia and other countries, and submit them, together with information from other government departments, directly to the Prime Minister to help work out foreign and defense policies. The information comes from both secret military channels and open publications. And the collectors are often under the cloak of diplomats, tourists or scholars who attend international conferences, as international information experts pointed out.
Japanese military attaches sent to other countries, in fact, are open information collectors. Before World War II, they are no more than general directors of Japanese spies on foreign lands. For example, the chef of the notorious 731 germ force once toured Europe twice in 1928 in the capacity of attache to collect strictly confidential information about germ war of Nazi Germany. Besides, attaches are also demanded to seek for information on European and American countries' attitude towards the war between Japan and Russia (1904-05).
After World War II Japan made certain changes in his military attache system and structure, but what remained unchanged is its essential function of information collection. Now Japan's ground, maritime and air self-defence forces all have military attaches as important information providers from foreign lands.
Japan's attaches are under duel administration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Defense Agency, with the former providing funds, exercising management and the latter responsible for personnel selection and work direction. However, the military information collected are firstly submitted to the Foreign Ministry through embassies instead of being directly reported to the Defense Agency, which has in a degree lowered the efficiency of information work.
China's East Sea Fleet always on minds of foreign spies
What should be called to attention is the base of Chinese Navy's East Sea Fleet, which Hiromasa tried to enter, is always a target weighing on minds of foreign spies.
On April 23, 1949, the first navy force of PLA army, "navy force of East China military area command"--the predecessor of today's East China Fleet--was set up in Taizhou, Jiangsu Province, with General Zhang Aiping in command.
Since then the China began to have a navy army of its own. On September 23, 1955, the army officially changed its name to today's "East Sea Fleet", with Vice Admiral Tao Yong as commander and its command post set up in Shanghai. Located in the forward position of the Taiwan Strait, the army shoulders long-term heavy tasks of vigilance, patrolling and fishing protection.
Today's East Sea Fleet draws even more attention. According to article of Beijing Youth Daily on May 21, 2002, the fleet now stations in Ningbo City of Zhejiang Province and its stationed ports include Shanghai, Wusong, Zhoushan, Dinghai and Hangzhou. The fleet now boasts three army-level bases in Shanghai, Zhoushan and Fujian respectively, defending an area of East See and Taiwan Straits south of Lianyungang and north of Nan'ao Island.