China and Japan accused each other of twisting the facts in the death of a Japanese consulate worker in Shanghai, threatening to prolong a diplomatic spat that has heightened tensions between the Asian rivals.
Japan's Foreign Ministry yesterday rebutted claims by China that work-related stress had driven the man to kill himself in May 2004, not pressure from Chinese spies as Japan has claimed.
"In the background of the suicide, we assume that there were regrettable actions taken by local Chinese security personnel," the ministry said in a statement.
The statement came a day after China accused Japan of deliberately smearing China's international image, saying Tokyo "refused to look at the facts, and has schemed to push the responsibility for the suicide on China."
The angry exchanges between the countries are the latest in a yearlong series of disputes over their wartime history, possible gas resources in the East China Sea and Japan's anxiety at China's growing military power.
Japanese officials gave no details on the suicide and did not identify the official for privacy reasons. But Japanese newspapers reported the official took his life because Chinese officials were pressuring him for secret information, using a "woman problem" as leverage.
The Chinese Embassy in Tokyo said in a statement on its Web site on Saturday that China had carried out its own investigation of the death and concluded it was not "in any way affiliated with the Chinese government."
It also said that Tokyo had asked Beijing to keep the staffer's suicide a secret.
Japan rejected those assertions yesterday.
"From right after this incident, [we] have been requesting the Chinese government to inform us of the relevant facts of this incident, and expressed strong protests," the Foreign Ministry statement said.