This story is over 5 years old.

Leak Shows US Spying on Japan Over Climate Change — and Cherries

The documents released Friday appear to originate from the National Security Agency, and contain a list of what WikiLeaks called "high priority targets."
Photo via Flickr

WikiLeaks has released documents that appear to show US spying on Japanese officials — the second such revelation showing surveillance of an American ally in as many months.

Similar to a June release by the group that focused on US spying on high ranking French officials, the documents released Friday appear to originate from the National Security Agency (NSA), and contain a list of what Wikileaks called "high priority targets." The list included entries for the "Japanese Minister of Economy Trade and Industry," Mitsubishi's natural gas division, a "Government VIP line," and even what appears to be a Japanese government fax machine. In all, some 35 telephone numbers associated with the government and businesses are listed.


In a statement, Wikileaks said the top-secret documents, "demonstrate the depth of US surveillance of the Japanese government." The materials date back to 2007, during the first administration of current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and run until 2009.

One document that summarizes intercepted communications from 2007 discusses plans by the Japanese government to announce plans to halve their carbon emissions by 2050.

"The MFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] was considering not informing the US in advance of its intentions because the ministry did not expect Washington to approve of such a goal, based on the US reaction to climate change issues so far," the NSA wrote.

In the end, Japanese leaders agreed to inform the US of its plans ahead of an April bilateral summit in Washington. That decision, the NSA wrote, "was apparently decided at a briefing at the prime minister's official residence."

"Japan anticipates no major harm to the Japanese-US relationship as a result," wrote US intelligence officers.

Two other reports from 2008,including a summary of communications pertaining to that year's G8 summit, also are focused on climate change. Another summary of intercepted communications dates from 2009 and discusses drafted talking points for Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Shigeru Ishiba ahead meetings with the US Trade Representative.

"Topics that may be broached are fisheries subsidies, the need for bilateral consultations on individual products, and tariffs on forestry and fishery products," the document states.


According to the Associated Press, Japanese Foreign Ministry press secretary Yasuhisa Kawamara said in light of the leak the two countries are discussing "information collection," and added that "Japan will continue to employ all the necessary measures to protect information."

The final intelligence summary released on Thursday discussed a 2009 diplomat row over cherries.

"Officials in the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF) appeared recently to be seeking ways to prevent damage to relations with the US over the ministry's decision to delay the important of US-origin cherries, a decision driven by Japanese politicians and growers," the NSA wrote.

Related: New WikiLeaks Documents Allege 'Economic Espionage' Against France By US and Allies

VICE News was not able to independently confirm the accuracy of the documents, but the leak is the latest in a series of alleged NSA materials released by WikiLeaks.

Like the spying on French officials that was revealed in June, details of surveillance in Japan are more likely to cause discomfort and awkwardness than any shift in diplomatic relations between the US and its closest ally in East Asia.

Those individuals and telephone numbers within France that were revealed as NSA targets in June included a cell phone number identified as "FR PRES CELL." The accompanying intelligence summaries described intimate communications involving France's last three presidents.

However, a note accompanying the 2008 G8 summary indicating the intelligence would be shared with Australia, Canada, the UK, and New Zealand — along with the US part of the so called "Five Eyes" group formed after World War II — is likely to raise eyebrows in Japan.

France and Japan are only the latest countries to learn of alleged American spying on its top officials. In 2013, Germany's Der Spiegel reported the NSA had created a "spy hub" in Berlin. Many have tied all the NSA leaks of recent years to Whistleblower Edward Snowden, but WikiLeaks has not revealed the source for its documents.