Chinese State Security Minister Chen Wenqing, the top Chinese intelligence official, visited Japan in late October through early November to meet secretly with senior Japanese officials from the Public Security Intelligence Agency and intelligence authorities, as well as the Foreign Ministry, sources told The Yomiuri Shimbun.
During a series of the meetings, the two sides discussed cooperating on antiterrorism measures for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 and agreed they would increase exchanges between their intelligence authorities. The two sides also exchanged views on the situation in North Korea.
It is highly unusual for a Chinese state security minister to visit Japan and meet with top Japanese intelligence officials.
Chen’s visit comes against a background of improved bilateral relations, evidenced by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Japan in May and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to China in October.
Japan and China had worked to arrange Chen’s visit since before Abe’s China trip, the sources said.
During the meetings, the Japanese side brought up China’s arrest of 12 Japanese citizens on suspicion of spying and other allegations — eight of whom have been indicted. Chen maintained China’s official stance that the matter would be dealt with based on domestic laws.
Both countries are apparently eager to create a new channel of communication that could function behind the scenes should the diplomatic channel stop functioning if relations again deteriorate over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture or other issues.
Chen also holds a senior administrative post on the Central National Security Commission — which serves as the control tower of the country’s national security policy and is headed by Chinese President Xi Jinping — and is a member of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission — which oversees the nation’s prosecutors, courts and police — of the Communist Party of China.
Chen will possibly be promoted to a member of the Political Bureau at the next National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2022. The Japanese side views building a connection with Chen as highly advantageous.
A communications channel exists between Shotaro Yachi, secretary general of the National Security Secretariat, and Political Bureau member Yang Jiechi, though their meetings are usually announced.