Japanese minister protests over detention of citizen during trip to China

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Japan’s foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi has protested to his Chinese counterpart over the detention of a Japanese national in Beijing and raised “strong concern” about China’s escalating military activity near Taiwan and around Japan.

Mr Hayashi is on a two-day visit in China, becoming Japan’s first diplomat to make the trip in more than three years as frictions grow between the countries.

On Sunday, he also met Chinese premier Li Qiang and top diplomat Wang Yi.

During his talks with the Chinese foreign minister, Qin Gang, Mr Hayashi demanded the early release of an employee of the Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas Pharma, who was detained in Beijing last month over what the Chinese Foreign Ministry described as spying allegations. Neither side has offered further details about the man nor the allegations against him.

He said he also expressed grave concern about Beijing’s increased joint military activity with Russia around Japan while Moscow wages war against Ukraine, and urged China to act responsibly for global peace.

Mr Hayashi said he told Mr Qin that their countries have the possibility of improved co-operation in economic, cultural and people exchanges, but also face “many problems and serious concerns” and that “Japan-China relations are currently at an extremely important phase”.

The two ministers agreed to work together in achieving “a constructive and stable relationship” as agreed between their leaders in November, Mr Hayashi said.

The sides agreed to improve communication in regional security, and welcomed the establishment of a defence hotline last week and the resumption of defence talks, Mr Hayashi said.

Mr Hayashi said that he and premier Li shared the importance of their bilateral economic ties, and that it was crucial that Japanese nationals and companies feel safe to operate in China.

Despite close economic and business ties between the two Asian powers, Tokyo and Beijing have been increasingly at odds in recent years as Japan considers China’s growing influence in the region a threat to its security and economy.

Mr Qin, meanwhile, warned against Japanese involvement in issues related to Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China claims as its own, saying Tokyo should not interfere and “undermine China’s sovereignty in any way”, according to a statement from China’s ministry of foreign affairs.

Using strong language, Mr Qin said “the Taiwan issue is at the core of China’s core interests and concerns the political foundation of China-Japan relations”.

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