China Arrests Two Japanese Citizens over Alleged Espionage
BEIJING – China has arrested two Japanese citizens over alleged espionage, adding an irritant to unsteady relations between the two countries ahead of plans for a summit later this year.
“We arrested these two people because they carried out espionage activities in China. That’s what connected these two people,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a briefing Wednesday.
Japan confirmed the arrests and said they happened in May. The two people were arrested separately, one in Liaoning province and the other in Zhejiang province, top Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said. He added that Japan is requesting their release.
Few details were disclosed by either country.
But the revelation follows generally testy relations between the two countries since 2012, when a dispute flared up over islands in the East China Sea that are held by Japan and claimed by China. This year, signs of a thaw have emerged. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a relatively amicable meeting in Jakarta in April, and both countries have said they are aiming to hold a three-way summit of the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea this year.
Accusations of possible espionage between the two countries haven’t been common. Chinese investigators detained a US businesswoman six months ago over allegations of spying and theft of state secrets, and last week formally placed her in criminal detention. In September 2010, China arrested four Japanese nationals working for construction company Fujita Corp., accusing them of entering a restricted military area. Three were released in 10 days and the fourth a little more than a week later.
It was too early to know how serious China’s latest accusations might be.
Neither China nor Japan said what the two arrested Japanese citizens were accused of, why they were in China or even whether they are men or women.
Both sides declined to comment on Japanese media reports that a third person was also arrested. Japan’s TV Asahi and said two people were arrested in Liaoning near the border with North Korea and an additional person in Zhejiang.
In terse answers at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Mr Suga avoided criticizing China and said Japanese diplomats in the country were assisting the two people, who he said are in custody.
Mr Xi and Mr Abe didn’t hold official talks this week in New York, where they attended the United Nations General Assembly. Mr Abe spoke in New York Tuesday about the importance of a positive relationship with China.
“We need to develop an amicable relationship, a stable relationship between Japan and China. I think both countries must make efforts to that end,” he said before speaking at the UN.
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