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Japan releases boat captain at centre of row with China

A part of the disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku isles in Japan and Diaoyu in China, is seen in this photo taken from Japan Self-Defence Force's airplane.
A part of the disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku isles in Japan and Diaoyu in China, is seen in this photo taken from Japan Self-Defence Force's airplane. Reuters
2 min

Japan has released the Chinese captain whose arrest two weeks ago led to a diplomatic spat with China over disputed waters. According to Chinese media, the captain has left Japan on a charter fight.

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Japanese prosecutors said the row had prompted them into releasing the captain Zhan Qixiong, who was arrested after his boat collided with two Japanese coastguard vessels.

Qixiong was arrested near a disputed island chain, called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China. China said the detention was “illegal and invalid”.

Tensions had escalated since Japan arrested the captain. China cancelled official visits to Japan and summoned the Japanese ambassadors six times.

The release also came after four Japanese were detained in China and accused of illegally filming a military area.

A spokesperson for the Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan denies the prosecutors released the captain because of the diplomatic pressure. But the conservative opposition has lashed out at the decision, saying Japan has lost face.

This year, Japan has been overtaken by its neighbour China as the world’s number two economy.

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