A spy scandal involving a Chinese diplomat working at the embassy in Tokyo looks set to cost a Japanese cabinet minister his job, a newspaper report said yesterday.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will sack his agriculture minister amid claims an alleged Chinese agent met with the minister’s underlings and could have seen classified information on exports, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.
The paper reported police believe Li Chunguang (李春光), a former member of China’s intelligence service who was first secretary at the Tokyo embassy, met with staff working under Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Michihiko Kano.
Police are probing claims the diplomat also had contact with defense firm employees and research and development organization officials in a bid to obtain information about military technology, the Yomiuri said.
Earlier reports said Li, who is fluent in Japanese, fled the country before police could question him.
Beijing on Wednesday dismissed claims the 45-year-old was a spy as “totally groundless” and said he had left Japan after completing his tenure at the embassy.
A Chinese government spokesman said Li was a scholar on Japan with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a leading government thinktank, who had been assigned to the economic section of China’s embassy.
The Yomiuri said Noda would remove his minister to avoid any risk of his being grilled over the spying claims by opposition lawmakers.
The prime minister is expected to make the move as part of a cabinet reshuffle as early as next week.
The change-up will also see the departure of the defense and transport ministers, both of whom have been censured by the opposition-controlled upper house.