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    China Blasts Japan Over Allegations on Suicide of Diplomat

    China has lashed back at Japan over the suicide more than a year ago of a Japanese consular officer in Shanghai. Japan this week criticized China, saying the diplomat killed himself because Chinese security agents were trying to blackmail him in order to obtain secret information.

    The allegations surfaced Wednesday when a Japanese foreign ministry spokesman said the officer had committed suicide in May 2004 due to what he said was "an impermissible act by the Chinese security authorities."

    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang responded angrily at a regular press briefing Thursday. Mr. Qin said the allegations are being made for ulterior motives. He also said China expresses strong indignation at what he described as the "vile behavior" of the Japanese government, which he said is seeking to smear China's image.

    Japan says the pressure that one or more Chinese agents allegedly placed on the consular officer to hand over classified information violates the terms of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which says host nations shall guarantee the inviolability of foreign diplomats.

    The exchange of accusations over the Japanese consulate staffer's suicide is yet another example of the deteriorating relations between China and Japan.

    The two countries this year have been locked in a number of disputes - largely over claims by China that Japan has tried to whitewash accounts of atrocities committed by Japanese troops during their occupation of China in the first half of the 20th century.

    China has also repeatedly protested visits by Japan's Prime Minister to a Tokyo shrine where convicted war criminals are among those honored.

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