Japan releases China boat captain in sea dispute
Friday 24 September 2010
Japan today released a Chinese trawler captain at the heart of a intense territorial row with China that Tokyo had warned was threatening to damage Asia's two biggest economies, Japanese media reported.
Kyodo news agency and other Japanese media said prosecutors had freed the Chinese fishing boat captain, whose trawler collided earlier this month with two Japanese patrol boats in waters near islands both sides claim, sparking a bitter row.
The decision reflected consideration for Sino-Japanese ties, Kyodo quoted the prosecutors as saying.
"The Chinese government will welcome this," said Liu Jiangyong, an expert on Japan at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
"I think this will be a turning point, a symbolic step, that will now ease the tensions that have risen between China and Japan."
Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda warned earlier that worsening ties between the two countries would be bad for both economies.
"A cooling of relations between Japan and China over the Senkaku problem would be bad for Japan's economy, but it would also be a minus for China," he told a news conference. "It's desirable that both sides respond in a calm manner."
Sino-Japanese ties had improved after a deep chill in 2001-2006, but the latest feud underscored the fragility of relations long plagued by disputes over wartime history and rivalry over territory, resources and mutual military suspicions.
Japan's sluggish economy has become increasingly reliant on China's dynamism for growth. China has been Japan's biggest trading partner since 2009 and bilateral trade reached 12.6 trillion yen (£95bn) in the January-June period, a jump of 34.5 percent over the same time last year, Japanese data show.
"The Japanese economy's future performance seems to depend on whether the problem is solved quickly," Japanese Economics Minister Banri Kaieda told a news conference.
China has cancelled diplomatic meetings and student visits to protest against the trawler captain's detention, and concerns are simmering that Beijing is holding back shipments of rare earth minerals vital for electronics goods and auto parts.
Trade Minister Akihiro Ohata told a separate news conference that Tokyo had confirmed there was no official export ban, but added that the ministry was still looking into the matter after hearing from traders that exports had been suspended.
Analysts said the trawler dispute was in part a row over sovereignty in an area with rich natural gas resources. The islands are known as the Diaoyu islands in China and the Senkaku island in Japan. The deadline for Japanese prosecutors to decide whether to charge the trawler captain was September 29.
Beijing also has territorial disputes with southeast Asian nations in the South China Sea, where Washington has come out in favour of a multilateral approach, raising China's hackles.
"China is becoming more assertive and is finding out that everyone doesn't like being walked over," said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University's Japan campus.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, commenting on the affair, said it was important for the two countries to foster strategic, mutually beneficial relations -a nod to the deep economic ties that would be at risk if the row worsens.
Sengoku also said Japan saw no link between the islets row and the detention of four Japanese nationals who were being investigated on suspicion of violating Chinese law regarding the protection of military facilities.
A Japanese foreign ministry spokesman confirmed earlier in the day that four Japanese nationals employed by unlisted construction firm Fujita Corp had been detained.
A spokeswoman for Fujita Corp said that five of its employees were missing in China - four Japanese nationals and one Chinese national. But they had no firm information on their whereabouts.
She said the employees were in China in connection with a project to dispose of chemical weapons abandoned in China by the Japanese military at the end of World War Two.
Japan has been assisting in the disposal of chemical weapons left behind by its Imperial Army during World War Two as part of efforts to improve bilateral relations.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...