Chinese fishing boat captain freed by Japan

Updated: 2011-11-10 07:59

By Ma Liyao (China Daily)

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BEIJING - A Chinese fishing boat captain detained by Japanese authorities has been released after paying a fine, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

Zhang Tianxiong, 47, was taken into custody along with 10 of his crew members by the Japanese coastguard on Sunday when sailing near the Goto islands off Nagasaki in southwestern Japan.

Japan Today reported that Zhang paid a fine of 300,000 yen ($3,860) for entering Japanese waters, and was then released to return home.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a news conference that the incident was resolved appropriately.

This incident occurred just over one year after tensions between China and Japan flared up following the detention of a captain of a Chinese trawler, which collided with Japanese patrol boats in September 2010. The incident has had a lasting effect on diplomatic relations.

Beijing called off several exchanges with Japan and suspended ministerial talks. The relationship remained cold until China provided aid to Japan after an earthquake and tsunami hit the country in March.

But unlike the September 2010 incident, which happened near China's Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, a sensitive area because of territorial disputes, this one took place farther to the north, in waters that not are disputed, the coast guard said.

Governments and media from both countries remained calm, the coast guard said.

According to the Nagasaki coast guard, the 10 crew members arrived at Nagasaki port on Monday afternoon with the fishing vessel and were taken in for questioning. None of them were arrested.

Experts said the incident is not likely to damage the bilateral relationship between the two countries, but it may influence high-level exchanges.

Liu Jiangyong, a professor of Japanese studies at Tsinghua University, said that the future of the Sino-Japanese relationship still mainly depends on how Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda handles China affairs.

Premier Wen Jiabao visited Japan in May, but Noda has not visited China since taking office in September. Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun said it was because Noda's government has failed to earn China's trust with his tough China policy.

The incident could cast a shadow over high-level exchanges between the two countries, said Yang Bojiang, a professor of Japanese studies at the Beijing-based University of International Relations.

Shinsuke Sugiyama, head of the Japanese Delegation to the Six-Party Talks, visited Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday. Several other high-level meetings and exchanges have been scheduled.

Former Japanese foreign minister Makiko Tanaka, also daughter of former prime minister Kakuei Tanaka will visit China on Friday at Beijing's invitation. President Hu Jintao is also scheduled to have a bilateral talk with Noda on the sidelines of the APEC meetings later this week in Hawaii.

Reuters contributed to this story.