The Japanese government on Tuesday found out it was also among a host of "friendly" countries the United States National Security Agency (NSA) had been covertly gathering information on.
According to The New York Times and following revelations from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden who has revealed how the U.S. has a regular and extensive network of spying and information gathering facilities spanning both friendly and hostile countries, Japan was under U.S.'s surveillance for its technical capabilities, among other things.
According to the popular U.S. daily's website, a document uploaded details the NSA's surveillance list for 2007 and Japan is among the countries who are listed.
Japan was under surveillance by the NSA for its ability to obtain and produce "critical strategic technology." The NSA was also interested in Japan's foreign policy plans and to ensure the U.S. maintained an upper hand economically over the world's third- largest economy.
The U.S. government has yet to address the issue with Japan personally, but other countries like Germany and Brazil have been riled by the U.S.'s actions, stating that they are a breach of trust and have, according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, " seriously damaged relations between the two countries."
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff recently canceled a trip to Washington following revelations of NSA activity in Brazil and said that the revelations had undermined trust and confidence in the U.S.
Public broadcaster NHK reported here that one of its Washington- based reporters said that the NSA routinely intercepts communications from all of its allies, through phone taps and other more sophisticated techniques.
Other reports, such as those published in The New York Times, have also stated that local embassies and military bases house highly-classified, specialist equipment for intercepting communications and alluded to such spying operations only being the tip of the clandestine iceberg.
Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told a press briefing on Tuesday that he has only heard about the U.S. covert surveillance of Japan through media reports, and not directly from the U.S. government itself.
"Any act that could damage trust between friendly countries, including us, is not desirable." "We do not want to believe this kind of report," Japan's defense minister said.
Following soured ties with Germany and Brazil, and perhaps Japan too as more NSA spying revelations come to light, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a recent interview on the matter that the NSA spying has "reached too far" and said it "will be stopped."
Kerry claimed that some of the operatives and technology were working on "autopilot" beyond the jurisdiction of U.S. President Barack Obama's administration and that ongoing reviews of NSA policy would ensure there were no more "abuses" in the future.
Kerry did proffer, however, that such intelligence gathering from both allies and enemies had, in the past, been pivotal in preventing terrorist attacks.