SEOUL — South Korea is expected to hand over to Japanese authorities a Chinese man who has completed a ten-month jail sentence for firebombing Japan's embassy in Seoul . The extradition process comes despite protests from China.
Liu Qiang completed his sentence on Tuesday for firebombing the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. He was immediately re-arrested pending his extradition hearing, which is expected within several days.
Liu faces charges in Tokyo for allegedly setting a small fire at a religious shrine considered a symbol of Japan's wartime imperialism.
China is demanding the 38-year-old man be deported to his native country. Officials in Beijing contend Liu is a political prisoner and say his acts were a response to Japan's refusal to apologize for its wartime crimes in China and elsewhere in Asia.
Speaking to reporters in Beijing Tuesday, Hong Lei, a spokesman at China's Foreign Ministry said China attaches great importance to the case and hopes South Korea will handle it impartially and appropriately.
South Korea Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young says a decision on Liu's fate is being made based on the extradition treaty with Japan.
Cho says legal principles take precedence, thus prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Liu. He says the Justice Ministry is now handling the matter in accordance with domestic laws.
Liu reportedly admitted setting the fire at Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine in December of last year as a response to what he considered Japan's lack of remorse for forcing Korean women into prostitution during the Second World War.
After that incident, Liu came to South Korea. In January of this year, he tossed four Molotov cocktails at the Japanese Embassy, which he contends was a political protest.
Liu claims his maternal grandmother was taken from Pyongyang and forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese. The Chinese Embassy here says Liu's paternal grandfather was a Chinese soldier who resisted the Japanese and died in battle in 1945.
Japanese officials say Liu faces a sentence of five years to life in prison, if convicted.