(From AFP)

The US spy agency targeted Japanese politicians, its top central banker and major firms for years, WikiLeaks said on Friday, in the latest revelations about Washington’s snooping on allies.

The intercepts exposing US National Security Agency activities follow other documents released by the whistleblower group that revealed spying on allies including Germany and France, straining relations.

Japan is one of Washington’s key allies in the Asia-Pacific region and they regularly consult on defence, economic and trade issues.

The leaks comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe moves to expand the role of Japan’s military, a move applauded by Washington but deeply unpopular at home.

The claims of spying on trade officials could prove particularly sensitive after high-profile talks kicked off this week in Hawaii aimed at hammering out a vast free-trade bloc encompassing 40 percent of the world’s economy.

The United States, Japan, and 10 other Pacific Rim countries are looking to finalise the most ambitious trade deal in decades.

But Washington and Tokyo — the biggest economies in the negotiations — have sparred over auto sector access and Tokyo’s concerns about including agricultural products in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“The reports demonstrate the depth of US surveillance of the Japanese government, indicating that intelligence was gathered and processed from numerous Japanese government ministries and offices,” WikiLeaks said.

There was “intimate knowledge of internal Japanese deliberations” on trade issues, nuclear policy, and Tokyo’s diplomatic relations with Washington, it said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not appear to be a direct target of wiretapping but senior politicians were, including Trade Minister Yoichi Miyazawa, while Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda was also in the sights of US intelligence, WikiLeaks said.

Tokyo did not immediately react to the leaked documents. Read more

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