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Two more Japanese nationals have been detained in China on suspicion of spying, bringing the number of Japanese held by Chinese authorities for espionage to four, news reports said Sunday.
A Japanese woman in her 50s has been held in Shanghai since June for her alleged involvement in spying on the country, the Mainichi Shimbun daily said.
The woman, who runs a Japanese language school in Tokyo, had visited China frequently, Kyodo News said, adding that the purpose of her visits was unknown.
Separately, another Japanese national in his 60s has been detained in Beijing in June on similar charges.
Quoting sources, the Japan Times said the Public Security Intelligence Agency had allegedly asked the Sapporo resident, who is said to have connections with Communist Party executives in China, to gauge the political climate there.
According to an acquaintance, the man was a former airline employee who became a consultant with extensive connections and often traveled between Japan and China.
China reported in late September it had arrested two other Japanese citizens for suspected spying.
The two were believed to have been collecting information at the request of Japan’s Public Security Intelligence Agency.
One of the two men was being held in Liaoning province, near the north-eastern border with North Korea. The other was detained near a military facility in the eastern province of Zhejiang. They were formally arrested later.
On Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stressed again that Tokyo has not sent Japanese civilians overseas to spy on other countries.
The Chinese government is increasingly cracking down on alleged spies after launching a strict new counter-espionage law last November. In China, the maximum sentence for espionage is death penalty.