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Japan - China

Japan to free Chinese boat captain at centre of row

Photo: Reuters
2 min

Japan is to free and send home a Chinese fishing boat captain whose arrest in disputed waters two weeks ago led to the worst row between the two countries in years, Japanese media report.


Japanese authorities had accused Zhan Qixiong of deliberately ramming two patrol vessels near disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Although the collisions caused no injuries the diplomatic damage was significant.
China had been demanding his immediate and unconditional release.

The move came after four Japanese men working on behalf of Fujita Corp were detained in China on suspicion of illegally filming in a military area.

A Japanese foreign ministry spokesman said its embassy in Beijing had received confirmation that the four were being held, but he said he would not speculate on whether it was linked to Japan's detention of the Chinese skipper.

Instead prosecutors cited the deepening rift between Beijing and Tokyo in their decision to release the captain.

"Considering the impact on Japan's people and the Japan-China relationship, we decided it would not be worth continuing detaining and investigating the captain," said Naha district deputy chief prosecutor Toru Suzuki.

At a news conference Suzuki added that Zhan Qixiong had acted on the spur of the moment and not committed a premeditated criminal act and had no criminal record in Japan.

Earlier this week Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said that Japan bore full responsibility for the situation and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the captain.

On Thursday US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the two sides to settle the issue before it had a long-term impact on the region.


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