Updated: 11/15/2013 22:04 | By Agence France-Presse

Japan city politician arrested on China drugs charges

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.

Japan city politician arrested on China drugs charges

A Chinese para-military officer patrols Tiananmen Square in front of the Great Hall of the People after the Communist Party Central Committees concluded its secretive Third Plenum in Beijing on November 12, 2013

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 October 31 at Baiyun airport "for carrying drugs with him".

"He is now being detained in the detention centre of Guangdong province," Hong added.

Officials in the central Japanese city of Inazawa said Sakuragi is city councillor who was in China for his private trading business.

A council spokesman said Sakuragi has denied the charges.

The case comes after four Japanese nationals were executed in China in 2010 for carrying illegal drugs.

Possession of 50 or more grammes 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 neighbours 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."

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