Chinese authorities have formally arrested a Japanese businessman detained earlier this year on suspicion of espionage, the Japanese government said Thursday, despite its repeated calls to release him.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference that the government confirmed the arrest of the man in his 50s earlier this month, saying Tokyo will continue to urge Beijing to release him as soon as possible by working "at various levels."

The man is an employee of Japanese drugmaker Astellas Pharma and has been detained by Chinese authorities in Beijing since March. China told Japan last month the man had been placed in criminal detention — a step leading to official arrest.