BEIJING – China demanded an apology and compensation from Japan today after it released a Chinese fishing boat captain held more than two weeks after a collision near disputed islands that has triggered the worst spat between the Asian neighbors in years.
Japanese authorities released Zhan Qixiong, 41, early today and he was flown home by chartered plane to Fuzhou, the capital of China’s southeastern Fujian province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Though his release is intended to defuse a diplomatic spat sparked when Japan arrested the captain after his trawler collided with two Japanese patrol boats near islands in the East China Sea claimed by both countries, tensions remain high.
China’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement repeating its “strong protest” that the boat crew had been detained and sought an apology from Japan.
“It is unlawful and invalid for Japan to detain, investigate or take any form of judicial measures against the Chinese fishermen and trawler. The Japanese side must make an apology and compensation for this incident,” the statement said.
Zhan’s release came after intense pressure from China, which suspended ministerial-level dialogue with Tokyo and postponed talks on developing undersea gas fields. Earlier this week, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao sternly threatened “further action” against Japan if it did not immediately release the captain.