Chinese authorities Saturday freed the last of four Japanese contractors who were detained last month in a military restricted zone in another gesture to ease tensions from a spat over disputed islands.
The release of the contractor comes a few days after the Chinese and Japanese prime ministers agreed to put relations on track after nearly a month of threatening rhetoric that sent ties between the giant economies and historic rivals to a recent low.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Sadamu Takahashi was released on bail Saturday, citing state security authorities in the northern city of Shijiazhuang. The report said the authorities instructed him to write a "statement of repentance."
Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told reporters in Japan that he heard the contractor was in decent health but urged China to explain the 19-day detention.
"We would like to press China for explanation as to why he has been held for a long time," Maehara said.
China and Japan have sparred repeatedly over territorial claims in the waters between them. The latest flare-up started Sept. 8 when the Japanese coast guard detained a Chinese fishing boat captain after a collision between their vessels off the East China Sea islands Japan calls the Senkaku and China the Diaoyu.
When China detained the four Japanese contractors on Sept. 21 on suspicion of filming in a military restricted zone, it was seen in Japan as retaliation, though the Chinese Foreign Ministry denied any link.
The four work for Fujita Corp., a Tokyo-based construction and urban redevelopment company, which said they were preparing a bid for a project to dispose of chemical weapons abandoned in China by the Japanese military at the end of World War II. The three other contractors were released Sept. 30 after admitting to violating Chinese law.
Fujita officials could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Fujita has identified the other three detained Japanese as Yoshiro Sasaki, Hiroshi Hashimoto and Junichi Iguchi.
Associated Press reporter Shino Yuasa in Tokyo contributed to this report.
(This version CORRECTS Corrects date of Chinese captain's detention to Sept. 8.)