09/13/2010, 00.00
JAPAN - CHINA

Tokyo frees Chinese sailors arrested off the Senkaku / Diaoyu islands

The captain of the vessel remains under arrest. The sailors were captured last September 9, charged with having rammed a Japanese coastguard who had ordered them to turn around. Diplomatic relations between Tokyo and Beijing still strained

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Japanese authorities this morning released 14 of the 15 Chinese crew stopped off the disputed Senkaku Islands / Diaoyu (Okinawa) on 9 September, for allegedly ramming a patrol boat which had invited their vessel to leave Japan's territorial waters.

The incident has caused diplomatic tensions between Beijing and Tokyo. The captain of the vessel, Zhan Qixiong, is still under arrest and will remain there until 19 September. He has to answer for obstructing public duties. Yesterday, Chinese Foreign Minister Jiang Yu called any investigation carried out by the Japanese authorities illegitimate, threatening a cooling of relations between the two countries.

According to the Japanese Coast Guard, the vessel was in Japanese territorial waters, when a first patrol boat, the Yonakuni, asked the vessel to leave. The Chinese responded ramming the coast guard and trying to escape. The intervention of a second Japanese patrol boat, the Mizuki stopped the ship and arrested all crew members. According to the Chinese, the patron boats rammed their vessel. The accident site, the Senkaku / Diaoyu islands are uninhabited islets on which Tokyo exercises control, but the sovereignty of which remains controversial and disputed between China, Japan and Taiwan.

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