Japan urges China to free fourth detained national

TOKYO, Sept 30, 2010 (AFP) - Japan confirmed Thursday that China had released three of its nationals detained amid a tense diplomatic standoff but urged China to quickly free a fourth man still being held.

Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, speaking in parliament, confirmed the release of the three and the continued detention of the fourth, 57-year-old Sadamu Takahashi, for allegedly filming a military site.

"Three of the four were released, but the reason why they had been arrested is not clear," Maehara said. "I'd like to ask for a swift resolution of the case of the remaining one."

The three men, detained last week in Hebei province, were freed after admitting to violating Chinese law, the official Xinhua news agency said.

They were identified by Japanese media as Yoshiro Sasaki, 44, Hiroki Hashimoto, 39, and Junichi Iguchi, 59.

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 Japanese forces in the 1930s.

Jiji Press reported that Japan's ambassador Uichiro Niwa was informed Thursday of the release of the three by China's foreign ministry.

The Japanese embassy planned to send diplomats to meet with them, public broadcaster NHK reported.

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