October 9, 2010 / 8:25 AM / 9 years ago

China releases Japanese man on bail as ties ease

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Saturday released on bail the remaining Japanese employee of a construction firm who had been detained on suspicion of illegally entering a military zone, Xinhua news agency said, in a further sign of improving ties.

A part of the disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku isles in Japan, Diaoyu islands in China, is seen in the East China Sea October 7, 2010. China has released on bail the remaining Japanese employee of construction firm Fujita Corp, who had been detained on suspicion of illegally entering a military zone, state news agency Xinhua said on Saturday. China on Sept. 30 released the three others, whose detention had added to strains after Japan arrested a Chinese boat captain over collisions with Japanese patrol boats near disputed isles. Japan released the captain on Sept. 25. REUTERS/Kyodo

The employees of unlisted Fujita were detained in northern China’s Hebei province last month while Beijing and Tokyo were embroiled in a territorial row sparked by Japan’s detention of a Chinese fishing boat captain in disputed seas.

They were in China for a project to dispose of chemical weapons abandoned there by the Japanese military at the end of World War Two.

China on September 30 released the three others, after they acknowledged “having violated Chinese law and showed regret for their mistake,” state-run Xinhua said at the time.

The fourth, named as Sadamu Takahashi, was released on bail, according to authorities in Hebei’s provincial capital of Shijiazhuang, cited by the brief Xinhua report.

He was instructed “to write a statement of repentance” and has already “left the place where he was residing under surveillance after going through legal procedures,” Xinhua added.

The report said the four had been detained “for intruding (into) the Chinese military zone and illegal filming military targets.” It gave no further details.

China and Japan, Asia’s two largest economies, have acted to ease tension following the stand-off over a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, called Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan.

On Saturday, four Japanese lawmakers inspected the islands from the air, Japanese media reported.

The Chinese and Japanese prime ministers met on the sidelines of a summit in Belgium this week, saying they both wanted to improve relations, though they also stressed their respective claims to the islands.

The spats have underscored the fragility of a relationship long troubled by bitter Chinese attitudes toward Japan’s wartime occupation as well as by present-day mistrust as China edges past Japan as the world’s second biggest economy.

China canceled diplomatic meetings and student visits in protest against the trawler captain’s detention, and industry sources cited concerns that Beijing appeared to hold back shipments of rare earth minerals vital for electronics and auto parts.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko in Tokyo; Editing by Ron Popeski

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