The Australian government said a Rio Tinto employee currently being held by Chinese authorities is suspected of stealing state secrets, the Wall Street Journal reported. Stern Hu, an Australian citizen and general manager of Rio’s Chinese iron ore unit, is one of four Rio employees being held. The other three are Chinese citizens. Stephen Smith, Australia’s foreign minister, said the detentions have nothing to do with the China Iron and Steel Association’s (CISA) ongoing price negotiations with Rio and other iron-ore producers or Aluminum Corp of China’s failed asset deal with Rio. The four employees had no direct role in the iron ore negotiations, but Hu was trying to gain long-term iron ore contracts from smaller Chinese steel producers outside of the CISA negotiations. Mining executives said CISA sees these side deals as weakening its bargaining power and that the detentions may be a pressure tactic to gain a better iron-ore price from the negotiations.
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