A 70-year-old Japanese local politician has been arrested in China on drugs charges in a case that could draw the death penalty, officials said yesterday.
The man, who was detained on October 31 as he was about to fly home from Guangzhou, was found with 3kg of suspected illegal stimulants, the Japanese foreign ministry said, citing Chinese authorities.
"At present, the local authorities are going through legal procedures to put him on trial," a Japanese official said. He did not identify the suspect.
But officials in the central Japanese city of Inazawa identified the man as Takuma Sakuragi, a city councillor who was in China for his private trading business.
A city council spokesman said Sakuragi has denied the charges.
The case comes after four Japanese nationals were executed in China in 2010 for carrying drugs.
Under China's drug laws, possession of 50 grams or more of so-called stimulant drugs such as methamphetamine can draw the death penalty.
Japanese media quoted a long-time associate of Sakuragi as saying the five-term city politician may have been framed due to his hard-line stance on diplomacy with neighbours China and South Korea.
Tokyo is embroiled in separate territorial rows with Beijing and Seoul, which routinely accuse Japan of failing to atone for its military aggression during the first half of the 20th century.
"There might be some political angle to this case," the suspect's associate Kenji Sasaki told Japan's Jiji Press news agency.