A Chinese man who crashed into the sea in an attempt to land a hot-air balloon on contested islands claimed by both Beijing and Tokyo has been picked up and handed over to Chinese authorities, officials said Thursday.
The man, identified as 35-year old chef Xu Shuaijun, took off in his multi-coloured balloon from China’s Fujian province on Wednesday in a bid to land it on one of the Tokyo-controlled islands, known as the Senkakus in Japanese and Diaoyus in Chinese.
He crashed into the East China Sea just hours later after hitting turbulence when approaching the islands.
A Japanese rescue helicopter found the balloon 22 kilometres south of the islands and rescued the man, who was unhurt, a Japanese coast guard official said. He was then handed over to a Chinese patrol ship outside territorial waters.
Chinese and Taiwanese activists have tried to land on the islands by ship several times but been blocked by the Japanese coastguard.
The islands have been a sore point in bilateral relations for years, and nationalists from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong have occasionally tried to sail to them.
A recent visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to a Tokyo shrine that honors World War II soldiers and convicted war criminals has outraged China, adding to the bilateral tensions.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-01-02