- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2005

BEIJING — Japan says Chinese spies drove a Japanese Consulate official to commit suicide — charges that drew an angry rebuke from Beijing yesterday.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Japanese government had “ulterior motives” for saying Wednesday that an official in its Shanghai consulate killed himself in May 2004 because of “an impermissible act” by Chinese intelligence authorities.

Japanese officials gave no details on the suicide and did not identify the official for privacy reasons. But Japanese newspapers reported that the official took his life because Chinese officials were pressuring him for secret information, using a “woman problem” as leverage.

“We express our strong indignation at the vile behavior of the Japanese government, which deliberately smears China’s image,” said the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang.

Last week, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said China was a considerable threat because of its rising military spending and what he called its threatening attitude toward its neighbors. China denies being a threat to the region’s security.

Analysts said the timing of the press reports suggested that Japanese officials were trying to buttress Mr. Aso’s description of Chinese threats, despite the potential damage to relations with Beijing, a key trading partner.

“It is very possible that the Japanese government … decided to either leak this story or gave the Japanese press permission to publish it to emphasize the threat,” said Andrew Yang, a senior analyst at the Chinese Center for Advanced Policy Studies in Taipei, Taiwan.

Relations between Japan and China, linked by billions of dollars of trade, aid and investment, have seen an unprecedented string of clashes over the past year.

In April, Chinese protesters stoned Japanese diplomatic offices and businesses in demonstrations over new Japanese schoolbooks that critics say minimize Tokyo’s aggression against its Asian neighbors in the 1930s and ‘40s.

China repeatedly criticized Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for visiting a Tokyo shrine that commemorates war dead, including several people executed for war crimes.

The two governments also are arguing over the ownership of potential gas resources in the East China Sea.

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