China has detained a Japanese man for over a year on espionage charges – the latest case of a foreign national who has run foul of the country’s secretive national security laws. The unidentified man, who is in his forties, was detained in the southern city of Guangzhou in February last year, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in Tokyo on Thursday. Suga said the man was charged in June but had not yet been sentenced. “From the standpoint of protecting overseas Japanese, we are working hard to provide as much support as possible,” Suga was quoted by Kyodo news agency as saying. Kyodo also reported that the man was an employee of the Japanese trading firm Itochu. However, a representative of Itochu’s office in Beijing denied the report saying there was “no such case”. A representative from the company’s Guangzhou office hung up when asked for comment. Susumu Tsuda, senior coordinator of protection of Japanese nationals overseas for the Japanese foreign ministry, said the man was accused of violating Chinese espionage laws and was in custody. Japanese consular staff visited him every month. “We see the person sometimes and then help him in some part, but ... the Japanese government cannot decide anything [that is] against the Chinese law,” he said when asked what help the Japanese government was offering the man. Tsuda said the case would not harm relations between Beijing and Tokyo. What do we actually know about China’s mysterious spy agency? Ties between China and Japan have improved with the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Beijing in October. Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Japan this year and attend the G20 summit to be held in Osaka in June. China passed a new counter-espionage law in November 2014 and national security law in July 2015, in an effort to fortify its domestic efforts against individuals and organisations perceived as threatening national interests. According to Tsuda, nine Japanese nationals have been jailed or detained in China on charges related to espionage since 2015. Japanese citizen Takahiro Iwase was sentenced to 12 years in jail in July after he was arrested near a military facility in Zhejiang province on suspicion of spying. A Japanese executive at a Tokyo-based Japanese language school was also given a six-year jail sentence in Shanghai on espionage charges, Kyodo reported in December. China’s anti-espionage efforts have come under international scrutiny in recent months with the detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – two Canadians accused of harming China’s national security. They were detained after Canada arrested Huawei executive Sabrina Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on December 1, for possible extradition to the US.