Japan called on China Thursday to release a Japanese businessman facing espionage allegations, confirming he was placed in criminal detention earlier this month, a step that could lead to his formal arrest.

The man in his 50s is an employee of Japanese drugmaker Astellas Pharma and was initially held by Chinese authorities in March. He has been put under watch at a detention facility in Beijing, according to sources familiar with the bilateral ties.

China will decide whether to arrest him within 37 days from the start of the criminal detention.