A 70-year-old local Japanese politician has been arrested in China on drugs charges, officials said Friday, in a case that could draw the death penalty.
The septuagenarian, who was detained in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, had three kilos of what are suspected to be illegal stimulants, Japanese officials said, citing Chinese authorities.
On Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei confirmed that Takuma Sakuragi was detained on Oct 31 at Baiyun airport "for carrying drugs with him".
"He is now being detained in the detention center of Guangdong province," Hong added.
Officials in the city of Inazawa, Aichi Prefecture, said Sakuragi is a city councillor who was in China for his private trading business.
A council spokesman said Sakuragi has denied the charges.
Four Japanese nationals were executed in China in 2010 for carrying illegal drugs.
Possession of 50 or more grams of so-called stimulant drugs such as methamphetamine can draw the death penalty in China, which is known for its harsh drug laws.
Japanese media quoted a longtime associate of Sakuragi as saying the five-term city politician may have been framed due to his hardline stance on diplomacy with neighbors 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.
"I am very surprised (at the arrest)", the suspect's associate Kenji Sasaki told Japan's Jiji Press news agency. "There might be some political angle to this case."© (c) 2013 AFP