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Japan demands China release detainee

China urges Japan to stop making 'irresponsible remarks'
Beijing (AFP) Sept 30, 2010 - China said Thursday it hoped Japan could stop making "irresponsible remarks", amid the worst diplomatic dispute in years between the two Asian powerhouses. "We hope Japan can... stop making irresponsible remarks and safeguard the larger interests of bilateral relations with concrete actions," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters. The comment came after new Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said that "people in the whole world saw a part of China's essential character" during the row, triggered by an incident in disputed waters in the East China Sea.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 30, 2010
Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Thursday called on China to free a remaining Japanese detainee held in a bitter row between the two nations, hours after the release of three Japanese nationals.

China freed three of the four Japanese men held for allegedly filming a military site but warned Tokyo to stop making "irresponsible remarks" over the standoff, which has lasted more than three weeks after a ship collision in disputed waters.

"I urge (China) to release the person still held as soon as possible," Kan told reporters, according to Japanese news agencies.

The row started after a Chinese trawler collided with two Japanese coastguard vessels near a disputed island chain in the East China Sea on September 7.

The trawler's captain was arrested the next day, prompting Beijing to suspend high-level contacts with Tokyo. The four Japanese were arrested later in a separate incident.

Kan reiterated that the disputed islets -- called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China -- "are an intergral part of our country's territory, and there is no sovereignty issue."

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters: "We hope Japan can... stop making irresponsible remarks and safeguard the larger interests of bilateral relations with concrete actions."

"We are willing to resolve our disputes through friendly negotiations but the Chinese government's and people's will and resolve are unswerving on issues involving China's territorial integrity and sovereignty."

Jiang spoke after authorities in northern China's Hebei province released three out of four men who were detained last week on suspicion of illegally entering a restricted military zone and shooting video footage.

They were identified by Japanese media as Yoshiro Sasaki, 44, Hiroki Hashimoto, 39, and Junichi Iguchi, 59. China's official Xinhua news agency said they were freed after admitting violating the law.

But the fourth man, identified by Japan's Jiji Press as 57-year-old Sadamu Takahashi, was still under investigation.

"Relevant authorities will handle this case according to law," Jiang said.

Their employer, Tokyo-based construction company Fujita, said they had been visiting the city of Shijiazhuang to prepare a bid for a project to dispose of chemical weapons left in China by invading Japanese forces in the 1930s.

"We still do not know why they were detained," Japan's top government spokesman Yoshito Sengoku said according to Kyodo News. "We are asking China for detailed accounts of the incident and urging it to ensure the safety of the remaining one."

The dispute between the two countries is the worst in years, and has undermined painstaking recent efforts to improve relations marked by decades of mistrust stemming from Japan's brutal invasion and occupation of China in the 1930s and '40s.

Last week, Japan released the trawler captain involved in the maritime incident near the disputed islands, which are claimed by both countries as well as Taiwan.

But the war of words has continued and traders in Tokyo said Beijing had disrupted exports to Japan of rare earth minerals, which Japanese high-tech firms rely on for making a variety of products.

China has repeatedly denied blocking shipments of the materials, used in everything from iPods to wind turbines -- a market in which it has a virtual global monopoly.

Japan's new Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, considered a China hawk, has said he hopes for an improvement in relations but also that amid the row, "people in the whole world saw a part of China's essential character".

Tokyo is reportedly considering stationing troops near the disputed islets, which lie in an area that has rich fishing grounds and is believed to contain oil and natural gas reserves.

The Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman meanwhile said Beijing had complained to Tokyo after a man was arrested for allegedly hurling a flare at the Chinese consulate in the western Japanese city of Fukuoka.

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