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By John Helmer, Moscow

For the first time since the execution of Richard Sorge in Sugamo prison, Tokyo, on November 7, 1944, the highest representative of the Red Army and of the Russian Defence Ministry has made an official visit of tribute at his grave. 

Sergei Shoigu (lead picture, right), General of the Army and Minister of Defence, visited Sorge’s grave (left) on Wednesday, May 29.  Also taking the salute were senior Russian military officers and Russia’s Ambassador to Japan, Mikhail Galuzin. Shoigu was on an official visit to Tokyo this week for meetings with the Japanese Defence Minister, Takeshi Iwaya, and for a session with the foreign ministers, Sergei Lavrov and Taro Kono.

Not before in Japan has Sorge, one of the greatest agents of the Soviet military intelligence services, been honoured in this fashion by his country. 

Shoigu’s tribute follows the publication in London of a British attempt to discredit Sorge.

His espionage career included the penetration, starting in 1933, of the office of the Japanese prime minister Prince Fumimaro Konoe, as well as of the Japanese General Staff and the war cabinet. Sorge’s exploits until his arrest on October 19, 1941, were documented after the war by US intelligence services anxious to determine whether the US Government was as effectively penetrated by Russian agents as Sorge had penetrated the Japanese and German high commands. Before that, he had served in Berlin, Moscow and Shanghai. Sorge’s cover was that of a journalist for the German press.

For details of Sorge’s story, read this. For the report of the Tokyo ceremony by the television branch of the Army newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star), click to open

Source: https://tvzvezda.ru/ A print despatch in Krasnaya Zvezda reported that the Sorge ceremony took place before Shoigu’s meetings with Japanese officials. 

In the Russian press report of the later meetings, it was noted that both sides discussed “defensive policy, regional issues…including the situation around North Korea.”  These are guarded references to the two-year old decision by the US and Japan to install nuclear-capable Aegis Ashore missile batteries within range of Russian targets.  The Defence Ministry has responded by reinforcing its military positions on the Kuril islands, including Su-35 fighter aircraft at Burevestnik (Iturup), and by conducting missile firing exercises within range of Hokkaido.  

The Japanese press version adds: “During Thursday’s [May 30] two-plus-two meeting, Lavrov expressed concern over Japan’s program to strengthen its ‘global missile defense’ capability, referring to Tokyo’s plan to set up the U.S.-made Aegis Ashore missile defense system in the prefectures of Akita and Yamaguchi. In response, Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya argued that Aegis Ashore is a ‘purely defensive system’ and will not pose any threat to Russia or other countries. Japan has decided to introduce the Aegis Ashore system to defend against North Korean ballistic missiles, but Moscow has argued it could also pose a threat to Russia.”

The distance between the Aegis installation at Akita and Vladivostok is 780 kilometres, significantly shorter than the range of the Akita battery.  Seaborne missiles of the Aegis system have already been installed on vessels of the Japanese Navy.  There is considerable opposition among Japanese civilians to the Aegis installations. For more, read this

No Russian military officer, nor an intelligence officer of any nationality, has ever been as effective against Japan as Sorge was.

The Japanese chose Sorge’s execution date, November 7, because it was the 34th anniversary of the Revolution. According to the official witness from the Japanese counter-espionage agency Tokko, Sorge’s last words at the scaffold, spoken in Japanese, were: “[Long live] the Red Army! The International Communist Party! The Soviet Communist Party!”

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