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Visiting Japan foreign minister to push China to free detained national


Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi is expected to demand the prompt release of a Japanese businessman detained on suspicion of espionage when he meets his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang in Beijing on Sunday.

Hayashi will also touch on China’s assertive claims to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Japanese government officials.

The meeting will be the first held in person between the countries’ foreign ministers since November 2020. Hayashi arrived in the Chinese capital Saturday for a two-day trip.

Combined photo shows Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi (L) and his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang. (Kyodo)

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed at a November meeting in Bangkok to arrange Hayashi’s visit. Qin, who succeeded Wang Yi in late December, also extended an invitation to Hayashi during phone talks in February.

The first visit to China by a Japanese foreign minister since December 2019 comes as Japan has been urging the release of the senior employee of Japanese pharmaceutical firm Astellas Pharma Inc., detained since last month on suspicion of engaging in spying activities.

Japan has also requested that he be allowed to meet consular officials.

On Saturday evening, Hayashi met with representatives of Japanese businesses operating in China and told them he will make a stern protest to Beijing over the Astellas Pharma employee’s detention and strongly demand his early release, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Hayashi also said he will continue to urge China to ensure a transparent, predictable and fair business environment and pledged support for Japanese firms’ operations in China, the ministry added.

The two Asian powers have long been at odds over the Senkakus, called Diaoyu by China. Over the years, Tokyo has lodged protests with Beijing over repeated intrusions by Chinese coast guard vessels into Japanese waters around the uninhabited islets.

China’s relations with the United States have also been tense in the East China Sea over Taiwan, the self-ruled democratic island that Beijing insists must be eventually unified with the mainland.

China has called for a cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine while maintaining friendly ties with Moscow, while Japan, as this year’s president of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, is in a position to maintain pressure on Russia to end the war.

Xi visited Moscow in March where he said China will actively promote peace talks in hopes of ending the Ukraine war.

The G-7 grouping imposed economic sanctions on Moscow, but China has not joined the coordinated efforts. Hayashi will continue to urge Beijing to “take responsible actions” as a regional power, the officials said.

Japan’s decision on Friday to tighten export controls for advanced chip manufacturing equipment could leave China less amenable to Tokyo’s requests as the measure is seen as an effort to hinder Beijing’s development of cutting-edge semiconductors that could be used for military purposes.

Still, the two countries said Friday their defense authorities set up a hotline designed to build confidence and prevent unexpected military contingencies.


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