Photo/Illutration The Metropolitan Police Department building in Tokyo (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Tokyo police will crack down on covert espionage and other illegal activities by China and North Korea from next spring to counter growing threats to national security, sources said.

The Metropolitan Police Department will start by reorganizing its department that handles matters concerning the two countries and increasing staffing numbers.

The decision was prompted by China’s request that its citizens actively cooperate with the government’s espionage activities and North Korea’s recent show of upgraded intercontinental ballistic missiles, sources said.

The MPD vowed to revamp its foreign affairs division within the public security department to better respond to emergencies.

Currently, the division is divided into three sections. One deals mainly with Russia and Europe. Another deals with China and North Korea. The last one deals with international terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic State.

The second unit will be divided into two, one to deal with China and the other to keep an eye on North Korea. This will mean that the division overall will operate as four separate entities.

Police will discuss the restructuring with the metropolitan government to secure sufficient budgetary funds, sources said.

China in 2017 enacted legislation requiring its citizens and members of groups to cooperate with the government by spying against foreign nations.

Students who study abroad, along with businesspeople who work for foreign companies overseas, are also required to cooperate.

There are growing concerns around the world about advanced technologies and personal data being stolen by China.

In Japan, police have repeatedly busted leaks of data, both secret and private, believed to have been perpetrated by China-based hackers and others.

Another worrying factor concerns repeated intrusions by Chinese vessels off the disputed Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

Police will focus their attention on information-gathering and analyzing the data, according to sources.

North Korea is another major concern due to its continuing development of military weapons capable of striking Japan.

New ICBMs, apparently capable of targeting the U.S. mainland, were displayed during a military parade in Pyongyang in October.

There are gnawing doubts that North Korea is still actively working to develop nuclear weapons.

Against this background, the longstanding issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea remains unsolved. The issue is becoming more pressing as numbers of victims’ kin in Japan continue to dwindle with each passing year.

Police, convinced that North Korea still conducts espionage activities in Japan, will try to assemble an overall picture of what is going on and put muscle into busting the illegal operations, according to sources.