Crew from Chinese trawler freed

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The Independent Online

Japan has freed 14 crew members of a Chinese fishing vessel, nearly a week after their trawler and two Japanese patrol boats collided near disputed southern islets. But China attacked Tokyo's decision to keep the captain in custody.

Such collisions or close calls in disputed waters have frequently touched off nationalistic protests in Japan.

Japanese authorities sought to ease tensions yesterday by allowing the 14 crew members to board a Chinese chartered plane that was sent to pick them up. Japan's Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, urged both sides to work hard to improve their ties.

But Japan continues to detain the captain of the Chinese trawler, Zhan Qixiong. A Japanese court has granted prosecutors permission to keep the captain in custody until 19 September to decide whether to indict him. China called the move "obstinate" and "reckless".