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A 34-year-old Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force officer was arrested Thursday for allegedly leaking confidential data on the U.S.-developed Aegis defense system, according to Kanagawa prefectural police.

Lt. Cmdr. Sumitaka Matsuuchi is suspected of passing highly classified information about the system to a fellow officer. He obtained the information while working with a computer task force on Maritime Self-Defense Yokosuka base in August 2002, a spokesman for the prefectural police said.

Matsuuchi allegedly copied the data, including defense secrets, onto a compact disc and mailed it to another lieutenant commander who was an instructor at MSDF First Service School in Etajima, Hiroshima prefecture, police said.

The shipboard Aegis system integrates state-of-the-art radar and missile-defense technology to defend against airborne and other threats.

Matsuuchi is suspected of violating the nation’s Law Concerning the Protection of Secrets for the Japan-U.S. Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement, police said.

The U.S. Naval Forces Japan command on Friday referred all questions about the arrest to the Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba expressed regret over the incident.

“It is of extreme regret, because the issue could touch on the fundamentals of U.S.-Japan alliance,” he said during a regular Thursday news conference.

Ishiba admitted the ministry’s management of mobile memory media had lagged behind in those days.

“I believe that the biggest contributor is lack of sense of protecting security information,” he said.

Following the revelation of the alleged security breach, Ishiba said the ministry has set up a special action team to provide thorough instruction to its members to protect security information.

Ishiba said that the information Matsuuchi leaked was eventually passed on to a petty officer second class who was a crew member of the MSDF vessel Shirane.

Japanese media reported that the data leak surfaced when police found a hard disc containing the classified information during a search of the sailor’s home in January. They were investigating the immigration status of his Chinese wife.

Investigations into the security breach are being conducted jointly by Kanagawa prefectural police and Maritime Self-Defense Force Shore Police Command, the spokesman said.

Stars and Stripes reporter Travis Tritten contributed to the story.

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