Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Japan

Newsline: China’s embassy pledges to protect Chinese trainees in Japan

The Chinese Embassy in Japan said it will continue to take strong measures to protect the legitimate rights of Chinese nationals working in Japan under the Japanese government-sponsored Technical Intern Training Program for foreigners. “The Chinese diplomatic and consular missions in Japan attach great importance to protecting Chinese technical trainees in Japan, and have carried out consular protection and assistance work through various channels and means,” the embassy told Xinhua. According to the Japanese Ministry of Justice, there were about 85,000 Chinese trainees in Japan last year under the program. Tokyo introduced the intern program in 1993. It claims the program is designed to bring in interns from developing countries and help them acquire technical skills they can bring back to their homelands to contribute to local economic development. Yet the system has been widely criticized as a platform to attract cheap labor from overseas to compensate for Japan’s manpower shortage without due measures to protect the rights of foreign workers. The Chinese embassy said it will increase contacts with related Japanese ministries to urge the Japanese side to take measures to protect the legal rights of Chinese interns.


Newsline: Student interns gain worldly experience at small embassies in Tokyo

Interest and participation have increased for an internship program that allows students to experience foreign countries without leaving Japan. Established in 2010, the University Student Chamber Japan (Unisc Japan) has been dispatching student interns to embassies and international organizations in Tokyo, where they gain work experience and learn about different cultures and languages in lieu of actual pay. Many embassies, particularly those of smaller nations, welcome the students. “It is a wonderful program,” an official of the Marshall Islands Embassy said at a recent internship briefing session. The most common job is translating Japanese newspaper and magazine articles. Some students have helped organizing events. Others have been asked to write reports on the Japanese political situation and even organized crime syndicates. Among the other diplomatic missions and groups that have accepted Unisc Japan’s student interns are the Embassy of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Kosovo Embassy, the Embassy of Honduras and the Swedish Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan.


Newsline: China state media urges clarity on Iceland envoy spy rumour

A state-run Chinese newspaper on Thursday called on Beijing to clarify rumours that its ambassador to Iceland has been held for leaking intelligence to Japan, throwing a rare official spotlight on such cases. The envoy, Ma Jisheng, left Iceland mysteriously in January and has not been replaced, with Beijing only telling Reykjavik that he was unable to return for “personal reasons”, according to the Icelandic foreign ministry. The Global Times, which is run by the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece the People’s Daily, urged Beijing to clear the air, citing the need to raise the awareness of espionage risks among the Chinese public. Few spying cases involving Chinese officials have been reported in the domestic media, it said. “In actuality, reporting such incidents will educate many people by letting them know how close those manipulators of overseas intelligence agencies are to us,” the newspaper said in an editorial. Hong Kong’s Ming Pao daily, citing US-based Chinese-language website Mingjing News, reported that Ma and his wife “were suspected of giving state secrets to Japan and were arrested (in early February) by the Ministry of State Security.” Ma was a high-ranking diplomat in Japan from 2004-08. The Chinese government has so far failed to shed light on Ma’s whereabouts and a foreign ministry spokesman on Wednesday told reporters: “I have no information on this”.


Newsline: Chinese ambassador to Iceland arrested for spying for Japan

Chinese Ambassador to Iceland Ma Jisheng and his wife Zhong Yue have been arrested by Chinese authorities for allegedly spying for Japan, Hong Kong’s Ming Pao Daily reported Wednesday. “According to a Chinese official, the Chinese ambassador and his wife were accused of spying for Japan, and were arrested by China’s national security authorities in early 2014,” the Chinese-language newspaper reported, quoting the U.S.-based Mingjingnews. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has yet to confirm the report. The website of the Chinese Embassy in Iceland still carries Ma’s past remarks and speeches, including ones that condemn Japan’s past atrocities and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine. Iceland’s English-language Reykjavik Grapevine magazine reported on its website earlier this month that Ma left Iceland on Jan. 23 and was expected to return in March. Urour Gunnarsdottir, a spokeswoman for the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters that the Chinese Foreign Ministry informed them in May that Ma would not be returning. Ma worked as secretary at the Chinese Embassy in Japan between 1991 and 1995, and as commissar between 2004 and 2008. He returned to China and became deputy director of information in the Foreign Ministry before assuming the ambassadorship to Iceland in 2012, according to the report.


Newsline: China may be holding former high-ranking diplomat at embassy in Tokyo

Chinese authorities may be holding a former minister-counselor at the embassy in Tokyo on suspicion of leaking information to Japan, informed sources said. The 54-year-old former embassy official has not been heard from for a while, the Chinese sources said, adding he appears to be under investigation. As a senior member of the Chinese Embassy, he started meeting ranking Diet members from the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and other parties in 2010, and developed a wide range of contacts in the Japanese political world. After returning home last October, he joined the Communist Party of China’s Central Party School for leadership training but has been unaccounted for since spring. The investigating authorities are believed to be looking into whether there were any shady relations between the diplomat and politicians and other people he met in Japan, at a time when relations between the two countries are in tatters due to thorny issues over history and control of the Senkaku Islands.


Newsline: Japanese diplomat met North Korea’s secret police official

A senior official of North Korea’s secret police organ directly linked to leader Kim Jong Un met Japan’s top diplomat for Asian affairs in a closed-door meeting last month to discuss the abduction issue, diplomatic sources close to Tokyo and Pyongyang said Tuesday. The North Korean representative and Junichi Ihara, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, apparently held the secret contact around Aug. 21 in Kuala Lumpur, the sources said. The official belongs to the Ministry of State Security, which is leading North Korea’s reinvestigation into the fates of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s following an accord between Tokyo and Pyongyang in May. North Korea’s special committee on the Japanese abductees, launched on July 4, is expected to issue the first report of its probe into the whereabouts of the Japanese abductees including the 12 Japanese nationals on Tokyo’s official list of 17 abduction victims. During their secret contact, the North Korean side did not provide any new information about abductees and called for Tokyo to take steps such as lifting the ban preventing the Mangyongbong-92 passenger-cargo ferry from entering Japanese ports in exchange for the report on the abductees, the sources said. Pyongyang’s probe into the abductions was launched following an agreement between Japan and North Korea on May 29 under which Japan pledged to partially lift its unilateral sanctions on the North after Pyongyang agreed to form a special committee on the Japanese abductees. After the committee was set up, Japan lifted some of its sanctions against North Korea.


Newsline: Japanese protest outside Israeli embassy in Tokyo

Scores of Muslims living in Japan along with Japanese citizens gathered near the Israeli embassy in Tokyo on International Quds Day to condemn the military action by Israel against the people of Gaza. Many people feel that the Japanese government is ignoring what they say are war crimes against Palestinians, so they decided to send a message to Israel expressing their anger. With many governments not willing to publicly condemn what many see as war crimes, demonstrations like these continue to grow in size and frequency. Eventually, demonstrators were allowed to read a message to Netanyahu in front of the embassy.