Obama Apologizes to Japan Over Spying Claims

Obama Apologizes to Japan Over Spying ClaimsObama Apologizes to Japan Over Spying Claims

US President Barack Obama on Wednesday apologized to Tokyo after whistleblower website WikiLeaks claimed Washington had spied on Japanese politicians, a government spokesman said.

"President Obama said he was very sorry ... as the case caused a big debate in Japan," spokesman Yoshihide Suga told a news conference, without confirming the spying claims, AFP reported. Obama held a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Wednesday morning, 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. He added that Abe reiterated his "serious concern" over the case.

"Prime Minister Abe told (Obama) that, if the Japanese people concerned were subject to these activities, it would risk jeopardizing trusting relations between allies."

In an earlier conversation with US Vice President Joe Biden, 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 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.

Unlike German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, Abe did not appear to be a direct target of wiretapping, but other senior politicians were, according to WikiLeaks, including Trade Minister Yoichi Miyazawa.

The two leaders also discussed the global economic turmoil, North Korea and climate change.