President Barack Obama apologized to Japan after WikiLeaks claimed Washington had spied on Japanese politicians, a government spokesman said.
Barack Obama held a telephone conversation with Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe on August 26, spokesman Yoshihide Suga said, adding that the pair agreed to work together on global economic issues in the wake of a stock market meltdown sparked by fears over China.
“President Obama said he was very sorry… as the case caused a big debate in Japan,” Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference, without confirming the spying claims.
He added that PM Shinzo Abe reiterated his “serious concern” over the case.
“Prime Minister Abe told [Barack Obama] that, if the Japanese people concerned were subject to these activities, it would risk jeopardizing trusting relations between allies,” Yoshihide Suga said.
In an earlier conversation with VP Joe Biden, Shinzo Abe voiced similar concerns if the spying claims were confirmed.
Last month, WikiLeaks said it had intercepts revealing years-long espionage by the US National Security Agency (NSA) on Japanese officials and major companies.
Tokyo’s response has been widely seen as muted compared to the anger expressed in France and Germany following similar NSA spying allegations.
Japan is one of Washington’s key allies in the Asia-Pacific region and they regularly consult on defense, economic and trade issues.
US ambassador to Paris has been summoned by the French foreign ministry over claims that the US spied on President Francois Hollande and his two predecessors, officials say.
Whistleblower website WikiLeaks reports the NSA spied on Francois Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac between 2006 and 2012.
President Francois Hollande called an emergency meeting and said France would “not tolerate” acts that threaten its security.
The US said it would not comment on “specific intelligence allegations”.
Ned Price, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, added that the US was “not targeting and will not target the communications of Mr. Hollande”.
The NSA has previously been accused of spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on Brazilian and Mexican leaders.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has summoned US Ambassador Jane Hartley to discuss the latest claims, French officials said.
Jane Hartley is expected to visit the foreign ministry in Paris on June 24.
A statement from the French presidency said the US must respect a promise not to spy on French leaders. The statement came after an emergency meeting of security chiefs in Paris.
A senior French intelligence official is meanwhile expected to visit Washington to discuss the spying claims.
WikiLeaks began publishing the files on June 23, under the heading “Espionnage Elysee” – a reference to the French presidential palace.
It said the secret files “derive from directly targeted NSA surveillance of the communications” of the three French presidents as well as French ministers and the ambassador to the US.
The WikiLeaks files have now been published by France’s Liberation newspaper and the Mediapart investigative website.
One of the files, dated 2012, is about Francois Hollande discussing Greece’s possible exit from the eurozone. Another one – from 2011 – alleges that Nicolas Sarkozy was determined to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, possibly without US involvement.
A file dated 2010 suggests that French officials were aware that the US was spying upon them and intended to complain about it.
According to the summary of an intercepted exchange, the French envoy to Washington and Nicolas Sarkozy’s diplomatic adviser discussed Sarkozy’s plan to express his “frustration” over US unwillingness to sign a “bilateral intelligence co-operation agreement”.
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