Tokyo seeks release of 12 Japanese detained in China

July 13 (UPI) — There are now 12 Japanese nationals detained in China on charges of spying, and Tokyo is seeking their release.

Noke Masaki, the director-general of the department of consular affairs at Tokyo’s foreign ministry, and his Chinese counterpart, Guo Xiaochun, met for the first consular-level discussion on the matter in two years, Kyodo news agency reported.

The Japanese government official said the reasons for the detention are unclear and requested a “positive” response from the Chinese side.

The Chinese representative reportedly said the arrests were made “based on the position of our country.”

The talks were held Wednesday following an agreement between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

China recently detained a Japanese man in Dalian, in the northeastern province of Liaoning, on charges of spying.

The man has been in Chinese custody since May.

Four men and women, all Japanese nationals, were also arrested in 2016 for allegedly engaging in espionage.

In 2015, Beijing arrested five men and women, all Japanese passport holders, for breaching national security.

Some of the detainees were placed under “criminal detention,” according to the Chinese embassy in Tokyo in 2015.

One of the detainees is a former schoolteacher in her 50s, a naturalized citizen originally from China.

Another detainee, a man, is suspected of assisting North Koreans in China.

Beijing does not recognize North Koreans fleeing their country as refugees needing protection.

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