Beijing: Chinese authorities are holding two Japanese men on espionage charges, media reports said Wednesday, sparking denials from Tokyo that it spies on foreign countries.
Japan`s public broadcaster NHK and the Asahi newspaper said the unnamed men were being detained separately, one in the northern Liaoning province and another the eastern Zhejiang province, adding that they had been in custody since May.
Citing unnamed sources, the reports said the men were both travelling in China and that one suspect had been detained near the North Korean border while the other was picked up close to a military facility.
Both were being held on a string of charges including violating China`s anti-espionage law, the Asahi said.
China`s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reports.
Japan`s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga declined to confirm the press reports but disputed claims of spying.
"I`m not going to comment on individual cases... but our country is not engaged in such (spying) activity," he told a regular press briefing.
The reported detentions come after China in 2010 held four Japanese men in the northern province of Hebei.
The group were employees of Tokyo-based construction company Fujita, which 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 invading Japanese forces in the 1930s.
They had admitted to filming in a military area, but said they had no idea they were in a restricted zone. The group were later released and sent back to Japan.
The detention occurred amid a bitter diplomatic standoff between China and Japan, sparked by Tokyo`s arrest of a Chinese trawler captain in contested waters in the East China Sea.
Despite extensive trade links, simmering territorial disputes and Japan`s wartime record are sore spots in relations between Asia`s two biggest economies.