A Japanese official being probed as the possible source of news reports claiming China had breached UN weapons embargoes on North Korea has been found dead, reports said Tuesday.
The official, 47, who worked at the foreign ministry’s unit in charge of collecting information on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, was found hanged at his home east of Tokyo last Wednesday, Japanese dailies the Yomiuri, Mainichi and other media reported.
A police spokesman told AFP the death was not thought to be suspicious, but refused to comment further.
Press reports said the official was a target in the ministry’s internal probe about the possible leak of highly sensitive information.
Earlier this month detailed reports based on Japanese intelligence appeared in local media about the export from China to North Korea of large vehicles capable of carrying and launching ballistic missiles.
The vehicles were likely those on display at the huge military display in April marking the centenary of the birth of North Korea’s founder Kim Il-Sung, said the Asahi Shimbun, which broke the story.
The sale of weapons systems to Pyongyang is banned under UN Security Council resolutions aimed at containing the hermit state’s nuclear ambitions.
The Asahi reported at the time that — at Washington’s urging — Tokyo and Seoul had avoided confronting Beijing in a bid to keep North Korea’s patron onside in the international effort to tamp down tensions on the peninsula.
Beijing has denied that it breached UN resolutions.
A senior official at Japan’s foreign ministry said it was not known whether there was any link between the official’s death and the leak of information to the media, Kyodo News reported.
Asked about the death at a news conference Monday, Senior Vice Foreign Minister Ryuji Yamane said the ministry could not comment on reports of the man’s death, but added there had been no plans to penalize him, Kyodo said.