09/10/2010, 00.00
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Captured fishing vessel raises tension between Beijing and Tokyo

The Chinese foreign minister "demands" the release of the vessel captured in Japanese waters of contested sovereignty. Japan contends that the matter will be dealt with ‘according to law’ and calls for ‘calm’.

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - China "demands" the release of the crew of a Chinese fishing vessel detained by the Japanese Coast Guard off the Senkaku Islands, which the Chinese call the Diaoyu, and the sovereignty of which is disputed between the two countries and Taiwan .

The episode which dates back to last Tuesday is creating political tension and could lead to a diplomatic incident.

According to the version of the Japanese Coast Guard, the vessel was in Japanese territorial waters, when a first guard boat, the Yonakuni, invited the ship to leave. The Chinese responded by ramming the coast guard and trying to escape.  The ship was halted by a second Japanese guardboat, the Mizuki, and the ship’s captain, Zhan Qixiong was reported.  According to the Chinese, the coast guard rammed their vessel. The accident took place at the Senkaku / Diaoyu islands, an uninhabited territory under the control of Tokyo, but the rights of sovereignty to them remains hotly contested.

Today, the Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi again summoned the Japanese ambassador Uichiro Niwa " stressed China is firm and unwavering in its determination to defend the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands," calling the detention of the vessel and its crew “absurd and illegal” and warning that the issue could have a "serious impact" on Sino-Japanese relations.

The Japanese diplomat responded that the incident "occurred in Japanese territorial waters, and that (Japan) is handling the case in line with domestic law." Niwa added that "we will cope with the case in a strict and solemn manner," and "We expect the Chinese side to deal with the case calmly and carefully”. A similar call for calm have come the chief cabinet secretary of Japan Yoshito Sengoku.

Yesterday, an editorial in the major Japanese daily, Asahi Shimbun, wrote that the arrest of the captain of the Chinese vessel "has the potential to develop into a complex diplomatic coup" because "the problem of territorial sovereignty is particularly difficult since it tends to incite patriotism" among the countries in which" memories of the war are still bitter".

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