BEIJING, Dec 29 (AFP): China Thursday accused Japan of "disgusting behaviour" and deliberately smearing its image over claims that a Japanese diplomat who committed suicide had been blackmailed by Beijing.
"We express our strong indignation at the disgusting behaviour of the Japanese government that intentionally smears China's image," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said when asked about the diplomatic dispute.
Japan said Wednesday it had officially protested to Beijing over the suicide in May last year of a Shanghai-based diplomat, following claims he was blackmailed by a Chinese agent demanding state secrets.
Japanese media reports said the diplomat, who was in his 40s and in charge of encrypting classified communications with Tokyo, left suicide notes saying he was blackmailed over his relationship with a karaoke bar hostess.
Japan's Weekly Bunshun magazine said a Chinese intelligence agency had pressured the diplomat to leak the contents of Tokyo-bound reports from the then Shanghai-based consul-general Nobuyuki Sugimoto.
The agency also wanted information on Japanese encryption systems, the magazine said in a six-page report citing various unnamed foreign ministry sources.
Katori said Wednesday that Japan had asked China to clarify the facts but had yet to receive a response.
Qin accused Japan of "ulterior motives" in raising the case after more than a year, arguing the two sides had earlier already reached a conclusion for the case.
The case has further strained already tense relations.
China has repeatedly expressed its extreme displeasure over Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to a Tokyo shrine that honors war dead, including convicted war criminals.
China, which was occupied by Japan before and during World War II, says the pilgrimage shows Tokyo does not fully regret its militarist past.
Japan and China are also bitterly divided over gas reserves in the East China Sea, with Tokyo planning a major increase in patrols in the disputed area.
In another episode that raised tensions, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said last week China was becoming a "considerable threat" because of its rising military spending and nuclear weapons.