Japan releases Chinese fishing crew, but holds captain
Japan agreed Monday to release the crew of a Chinese boat that collided with its Coast Guard, but kept the captain under arrest on charges of intentional ramming, dpa reported.
The 14 crewmen were to board a flight to China Monday, officials said. But Tokyo rejected repeated demands from Beijing to release the captain, and risked diplomatic relations over the incident.
"Japan9s response to an illegal fishing operation by the Coast Guard and the investigation authorities are conducting are logical and appropriate," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said.
China's Foreign Ministry late last week called the Japan's actions "absurd, illegal and invalid," and warned of reprisals.
The collision occurred in the East China Sea in disputed waters near islands claimed by both nations.
The area is believed to contain gas and oil reserves. China and Japan had been negotiating development rights in the zone, but Beijing cancelled those talks after Japan seized the fishing boat.
"It9s very troubling that the gas field exploration talks are being halted in connection with this. These are separate issues," Sengoku said.
China's Foreign Ministry summoned Japan's ambassador in Beijing four times within five days, demanding the release of the captain, crew and the fishing boat.