The media has been full of reports over the recent arrest of a former division manager of SoftBank who was accused of leaking corporate data to Russia. The methodology used to elicit his cooperation appears to have been taken straight out of the textbook of the Soviet Union's former secret spy service, the KGB.
The fact is, reports Asahi Geino (Feb 13), Japan is a cozy haven for all types of espionage activities, and by no means limited to the Russians. Here you can find operatives from China, South Korea, North Korea and others, actively digging and probing for nuggets of information.
"The first contact we made with a collaborator was at a diplomatic reception held for corporations during an event at the Makuhari Messe," recalls Mr X, who once belonged to an intelligence bureau of a country in the former communist bloc. "I usually assumed the guise of a buyer for a trading firm or importing company. Even if they sensed something was fishy, Japanese businessmen were still willing to talk to us and exchange business cards."
"Naturally, we would not attempt any moves at the event, but several days later we'd approach the target in a manner that appeared coincidental, such as running into him on the street," he continued with a chuckle. "Then we'd try to become familiar with him by offering to go out for a meal and drinks. If the relationship warmed up, we'd send him a birthday or anniversary gift. Then at some point in the relationship, the 'gift' would be reciprocated in the form of confidential information."
In the SoftBank incident, the Japanese engineer was arrested on Jan 31 on suspicion of leaking secrets to a man employed by the Russian trade office.
"The security section of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department maintains a list of spies, most of whom are Russian or Chinese," said the unnamed police source. "Japanese nationals with whom they have frequent contacts are closely watched. This time it was a Softbank employee with specialized knowledge of 5G circuitry and artificial intelligence. He'd had multiple contacts with a Russian diplomat and once the evidence of what he'd leaked became clear, he was arrested."
In terms of numbers, Chinese operatives in Japan are said to be more numerous than Russians -- although few of them are ever charged.
"Chinese engineers who studied in Japan collect data," says military journalist Buntaro Kuroi. "Most of this material is not highly classified, but a matter of general knowledge. The data then gets sent to 'analysts' back in China, who maintain a watch and use it to determine the most reliable sources."
Both North and South Korea are adept at setting so-called "honey traps." North Korea's government, for instance, operates "show pubs" in such countries as Myanmar and Laos, where attractive women serve male customers. Married men caught on camera in compromising positions are said to be especially vulnerable.
"I know of cases where Japanese engineers were set up by blonde Russian beauties," remarked a source in the Tokyo MPD. "The usual way it got started was they'd stop for a drink at some bar in Roppongi after work and the girls would come on to them."
Even when the men were aware that the bar might be a hangout for spies, they failed to take precautions and convinced themselves, when they scored, that they were on the receiving end of good fortune. Nor did it take a great deal of effort to persuade them to supply corporate secrets.
"The police investigators were struck by how the suspects, while weeping with shame, would justify their treachery, saying, 'But she was so nice to me!'" the source was quoted as saying.© Japan Today