• Kyodo

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A Japanese man serving a prison term in China for helping North Koreans who entered China go to a third country was released Monday and left for Japan, a Japanese consular official in Guangzhou said.

Takayuki Noguchi, 33, left the prison in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in the morning and arrived at Narita airport in the evening.

Noguchi became the first Japanese to be given a prison sentence for helping North Koreans flee their country via China, when the Intermediate People’s Court of Chongzuo, a city in the autonomous region, sentenced him to eight months and fined him 20,000 yuan (about 260,000 yen) on June 28.

The court said his prison term would end Aug. 9 to take into account time spent in custody, and that he would then be deported.

Noguchi, a member of a Japanese nongovernmental organization, was detained by Chinese authorities Dec. 10 near the Vietnamese border in the autonomous region when he was with two North Koreans who were previously residents of Japan.

He was traveling southward on a train with the two North Koreans and a Chinese interpreter.

Noguchi was formally arrested in January.

China has previously taken into custody two other Japanese helping North Koreans flee — Hiroshi Kato, secretary general of the organization to which Noguchi belongs, and Fumiaki Yamada, a university professor. Both were deported within a few weeks.

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