Japan's foreign minister calls for early release of detained national during talks in China


Japan's foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi (left) meets Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China. - Reuters

TOKYO/BEIJING, April 2 (Reuters): Japan's foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said he called on Beijing for the early release of a detained Japanese national during a meeting with Chinese diplomat Qin Gang held on Sunday.

Hayashi is visiting China and met with his counterpart Qin, marking the first visit to Beijing for a Japanese government foreign minister in over three years, as the two countries seek common ground amid rising regional tension.

"I made a protest against the recent detention of a Japanese person in Beijing, and made a strong point of our position on the matter, including the early release of this national," Hayashi said to reporters after his meeting with Qin.

He added that Japan is seeking transparency over the legal process regarding detentions and has asked for China to secure a fair and safe business environment, but did not elaborate on China's reaction.

The visit comes a week after a spokesperson of Astellas Pharma Inc said its employee was detained in China for unknown reasons. At least 16 Japanese nationals, not counting this case, have been detained in China on suspicion of engaging in spying activities since 2015, according to Kyodo News.

Hayashi also said he conveyed Japan's grave concerns over the increase of China's military activity, including its closeness with Russia and its maritime presence in the East China Sea.

"We both affirmed the importance of continuing to have a dialogue on issues including national security," Hayashi said, adding that he spoke to Qin about the "importance of ensuring peace and stability in the Taiwan strait."

Regional tension has been rising over Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory. China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.

The democratically elected government in Taipei rejects Beijing's claims and says only its people can decide its future.

Japan also lodged a diplomatic complaint in August after five ballistic missiles launched by the Chinese military fell into Japan's exclusive economic zone, near disputed islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

Although Japan and China have their differences, both agreed to restart trilateral talks with South Korea, Hayashi said, calling the agreement "an important achievement" from his meeting with Qin.

"We agreed to continue communicating closely on various levels, including the foreign ministerial and leadership levels," Hayashi added.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit last November, marking the first leadership-level talks in almost three years. - Reuters

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