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Reports: Suspected Japanese spies arrested in China

Chinese authorities have arrested two Japanese citizens on suspicion of spying, after two other cases earlier this year, Japanese media says. The reports come ahead of a Japan visit by Beijing's top diplomat Yang Jiechi.

The two suspected spies, a man and a woman, were detained in Beijing and Shanghai respectively, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on Monday that an investigation is in progress, but declined to comment on the specific case.

"As far as I understand, relevant Chinese departments are investigating the relevant cases in accordance with the law. The relevant situation has been passed on to the Japanese side," she told a daily news briefing.

Japan's Foreign Ministry refused to confirm or deny the weekend reports about the arrests, which the media claims were made in June.

Meeting at the top

Last month, officials in both Japan and China admitted that two other

Japanese citizens had been arrested

on spying charges, one of them near the North Korean border.

All four of the alleged agents had frequently visited China, according to the media reports.

Also on Monday, Chinese authorities announced that State Councillor Yang Jiechi will visit Tokyo to meet the head of Japan's National Security Council Shotaro Yachi. According to Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua, the two politicians will talk about international issues and ways to "manage and control disputes."

Jiechi is Beijing's top diplomat, outranking even the Chinese foreign minister.

Ambassador missing

Relations between Japan and China are traditionally burdened by the Japanese atrocities in World War II, with recent

rows over islands in South China Sea

feeding the tensions further.

In late 2014, China tightened already strict security laws and regulations, following the disappearance of Beijing's then-ambassador to Iceland Ma Jisheng.

According to unconfirmed reports, Jisheng was arrested for passing state secrets to Japan, although Beijing refused to provide details.

Despite spy incidents and regional disputes, the two Asian countries have somewhat improved their relations since Chinese president Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met twice in November 2014.

dj/bk (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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