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Japan rejects China's demand for apology in boat row

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-09-26

Japan has turned down Beijing’s call for an apology for the two-week detention of a Chinese trawler captain, whose arrest near a disputed island chain triggered the diplomatic spat between the two economic powers.

AFP - Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan Sunday rejected China's call for an apology and compensation for the detention of a Chinese trawlerman, a day after the captain returned home to public acclaim.

The skipper was arrested on September 8 and accused of ramming Japanese patrol boats in waters near a disputed Japan-administered island chain -- known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China -- in the East China Sea.

Beijing said it was an "unlawful" detention and demanded "practical steps" to resolve the diplomatic row, one of the worst in years between the Asian giants.

But Kan told reporters in Tokyo: "The Senkaku islands are Japan's own territory. From this viewpoint, compensation is unthinkable," according to Jiji Press.

The young centre-left government in Tokyo, which has faced accusations at home that it caved in to bullying by China, announced Friday the trawlerman would be freed but said the decision was made solely by prosecutors.

Prosecutors in Japan cited the deepening rift between Beijing and Tokyo in their decision to release 41-year-old skipper Zhan Qixiong, who arrived home Saturday on a government-chartered plane to a hero's welcome.

The same day, Beijing twice called for an apology and compensation from Tokyo over Zhan's detention. Tokyo dismissed the calls as "totally groundless".

Despite Japan's claims, China stressed that the disputed territory at the centre of the spat had been "part of Chinese territory since ancient times".

Meanwhile, Tokyo says China has shipped drilling equipment to disputed gas fields in another part of the East China Sea.

Following the captain's arrest, China issued a series of harsh diplomatic protests, summoned Japan's ambassador Uichiro Niwa six times and cancelled official visits, energy talks and joint cultural events.

On September 13 Japan released the ship's 14 Chinese crew, but on the same day Beijing protested over the skipper's continued detention.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last week weighed in and threatened "further actions" as Japanese traders reported China had blocked exports of rare earth metals, used in products from iPods to electric cars, a claim denied by Beijing.

Further ramping up tensions, China detained four Japanese nationals who were working on a bid for a project to clear up chemical weapons left from the Japanese occupation before and during World War II.

Analysts said the trawler captain's release was seen as boosting China's communist leaders at home, where the case sparked strong nationalist sentiment among a domestic audience still sensitive about Japan's past militarism.

In Japan -- which was overtaken this year by China as the world's number two economy -- the move to release him was criticised by the political opposition.

Kan's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) "has terrible sense in diplomacy, and made a disastrous failure in its diplomacy on China," said Nobuteru Ishihara, the secretary general of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

"The decision (to release the captain) gave the impression to Chinese fishermen that they have extra-territorial rights where Japanese fishermen operate," he told public broadcaster NHK.

Date created : 2010-09-25


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