Japan frees Chinese captain

Japan released a Chinese fishing boat captain yesterday, three days after his arrest for refusing a coast guard inspection near Japanese territorial waters, putting a quick end to the latest in a series of maritime incidents between the two countries.

The release comes little more than a year after tensions between Japan and China flared up following a detention of the captain of a Chinese trawler that collided with Japanese patrol boats near China’s Diaoyu islets in the East China Sea. That clash stirred severely strained diplomatic relations.

This time, however, the Chinese ship was detained in an area that is not a subject of territorial disputes, the Japanese coast guard said.

“I understand the case was handled properly based on the law and evidence,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said yesterday, adding that the incident was unlikely to affect bilateral ties.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the matter is an ordinary fishery incident which has been resolved properly.

“The detained Chinese boat, captain and 10 crew members headed for China after being punished with a fine,” Hong said yesterday.

The skipper had taken his boat into waters near the Goto islands off Nagasaki in southwestern Japan on Sunday when it was spotted by the coast guard, according to the Nagasaki coast guard office. The vessel ignored requests to stop, it said.

China urged Japan on Tuesday to resolve the arrest quickly and appropriately, calling it an “ordinary fishing incident.”

The prosecutors’ office in Fukuoka said the skipper was released after paying a fine of 300,000 yen (US$3,860). He and 10 crew members sailed out of Nagasaki.