The Japanese government has accused members of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) of detaining, blindfolding and interrogating a Japanese diplomat.
The FSB told the Russian state-run TASS news agency it caught Japanese diplomat Motoka Tatsunori “red-handed” receiving classified information.
“The Federal Security Service in the Primorsky Territory stopped the espionage action of the Consul of the Consulate General of Japan in Vladivostok, Motoka Tatsunori,” the FSB told TASS. “A Japanese diplomat was detained red-handed while receiving limited distribution information for a monetary reward about topical aspects of Russia’s cooperation with one of the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, the impact of the sanctions policy of the West on the economic situation in Primorsky Krai.”
The Russian government has since released the Japanese diplomat and declared him “persona non grata,” meaning he had to leave the country within 48 hours.
The Japanese government has disputed Russia’s spying allegations and alleged FSB agents. On Tuesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi Russia’s action were “totally unacceptable” and said Tatsunori had not committed any illegal activity.
Hayashi said Tatsunori was blindfolded, physically restrained and treated “coercively” by the Russian FSB during his detention and interrogation, Kyodo News reported.
It is not exactly clear what information the Russian authorities believe Tatsunori took or why they didn’t continue to detain him if he was caught “red handed.” TASS reported the information pertained to current aspects of Russia’s cooperation with an unspecified Asia Pacific country. This unspecified Asia Pacific country could refer to China.
Russia and China have been gradually growing up their military and political cooperation in recent years, shaping an alliance to counter U.S.-western aligned dominance.
Ahead of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) earlier this month, Chinese officials openly described their desire to work with Russia to shape the “international order” in a new direction that’s more to their liking.
Japan is a major partner to the U.S. in the Indo-Pacific region and, as such, poses a potential opponent to Russia and China in their strategy for great power competition.
Russia and China have both exerted pressure against Japan in recent memory. Warships from both countries have carried out military drills and patrols near Japan. China and Russia also conducted a joint aerial patrol near Japan with nuclear-capable bombers as President Joe Biden visited the Asian nation in May.