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Japanese Military Lost Secret Codes

January 12, 1993

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan’s military more than four years ago lost a code list used to identify enemy aircraft, but Western security was never threatened, officials said Monday.

Masayuki Matsuura, spokesman for Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force, said the destroyer Akigumo was returning to a northern port from an exercise in June 1988 when it was learned the codes were missing.

He said Japan’s Defense Agency notified the U.S. military and other Western allies a day after the loss and the codes were changed.

″We did not intentionally conceal the incident,″ Matsuura said.

A spokesman for U.S. forces in Japan said the Navy was ″very satisfied″ with Japan’s handling of the matter. He refused to give details.

Matsuura said the Akigumo’s captain and three other officers were relieved of duties and three other officers were disciplined. He said a three-month investigation failed to determine what happened to the codes.

Kyodo News Service, which reported the missing codes during the weekend, quoted unidentified sources as saying many naval officers believed a crew member dropped the codes overboard to cause trouble for the ship’s captain and other officers, but the theory was not confirmed.

The codes are used to identify friendly and enemy aircraft through special signals transmitted by the planes. Similar codes were used during the Persian Gulf War.

Haruo Fujii, a Japanese defense analyst at the private Military Problems Research Institute, said Western security could have been at risk if the Soviet Union had obtained and analyzed the codes before they were changed. He said Soviet planes could have posed as Western aircraft and approached Western military planes or vessels.

Japan’s military did not publicly disclose the loss of the codes.

Matsuura said other details of the incident were unclear because some documents had been discarded after the required period for keeping them expired.

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