Japanese detainee returns from China

The last of four Japanese workers who had been held in China returned home on Sunday as the two Asian powers prepare to hold their first high-level talks in weeks after the worst tensions in years.

Tokyo: The last of four Japanese workers who had been held in China returned home on Sunday as the two Asian powers prepare to hold their first high-level talks in weeks after the worst tensions in years.

Sadamu Takahashi, an employee of Japanese construction company Fujita, arrived at Tokyo`s Haneda airport following a 20-day detention in China. Fujita and Takahashi plan to hold a press conference at 0700 GMT in Tokyo.

Beijing freed Takahashi, 57, on bail yesterday, nine days after freeing his three fellow construction workers. They had been detained since September 20 for filming a military site in the northern province of Hebei.

Tokyo-based Fujita said they had been visiting the city of Shijiazhuang to prepare a bid for a contract to dispose of chemical weapons left in China by invading Japanese forces in the 1930s.

Their arrests came with China infuriated by Tokyo`s detention of a Chinese fishing captain on September 8 in a disputed area of the East China Sea. Japanese prosecutors released the skipper after acute pressure from Beijing.

China broke off all high-level talks with Japan over the incident. But they are set to resume on Monday when Japanese Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa meets his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie in Hanoi, Kyodo News said.

The row between Asia`s two biggest economies was the worst in years, and undermined painstaking recent efforts to improve relations marked by decades of mistrust stemming from Japan`s brutal 1930s invasion of China.

Traders in Tokyo said Beijing went so far as to disrupt the exports to Japan of rare earth minerals that are essential for making high-tech products.

But the two countries appear to be trying to mend fences, with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao holding a brief meeting last week in Brussels on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe summit.

Kan has said he agreed with Wen to "resume high-level political exchanges" suspended following the sea incident.

"I believe various things are returning to where they were before," Kan told reporters late yesterday after Beijing released the last Japanese national detained.

Bureau Report

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