Japan Upset by Wikileaks Revelations of U.S. Spying

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visit the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, Monday, April 27, 2015
AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Japanese officials are concerned over the recent WikiLeaks exposure of American spying, which appears to have been focused on gathering intelligence about “Japanese positions on international trade and climate change” from 2007 through 2009, according to the Associated Press. There are fears the controversy will hinder Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, which are already foundering over such issues as foreign access to Japan’s automobile market.

The AP reports that Vice President Joe Biden was delegated to “reassure Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday that the U.S. limits its surveillance of friendly nations.” “The vice president reaffirmed the United States’ commitment made by President Obama in a 2014 presidential directive to focus our intelligence collection on national security interests,” said a White House statement related by the AP.

That directive was issued after NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed a trove of sensitive information, including documentation of intelligence gathering against other U.S. allies, such as Germany, France, and Brazil. The Germans and French did not take the news well.

Curiously, Biden is also said to have “apologized for causing trouble in Japan, without mentioning a specific incident.” The documents exposed by WikiLeaks included a list of telephone surveillance targets, including government officials and executives at large corporations such as Mitsubishi and the Bank of Japan.

For his part, Prime Minister Abe told Biden, “If it is true these Japanese individuals were targeted, it could shake the relationship of trust in our alliance and I would have to express serious concerns.” His comments were related by a Japanese government spokesman, as quoted by Voice of America.

VOA also reports spokesman Yoshihide Suga saying the matter has “stirred up debate in Japan,” which sounds similar to the controversy that erupted in Germany after the Snowden disclosures.