Japan has freed the crew of a Chinese trawler it seized last week.
Beijing demanded that Tokyo free the captain of the Chinese fishing trawler, who was arrested after his vessel collided with two Japan Coast Guard vessels in disputed waters.
In a diplomatic row between the Asian giants, China summoned Japan’s ambassador for a second time since the incident last Tuesday, near a disputed island chain in the East China Sea.
China “demanded that the Japanese side immediately release the ship and crew members on board and guarantee their safety”, assistant foreign minister Hu Zhengyue told Japan’s ambassador Uichiro Niwa, the ministry said.
Japan said it suspected the captain hit its patrol ships deliberately in the confrontation, and was holding the captain on suspicion of obstructing officers on duty, which carries a maximum three years’ jail.
Japan’s 1,300-ton patrol boat Yonakuni last Tuesday ordered the trawler to cease operations in the disputed waters.
In the ensuing confrontation, the Chinese boat’s bow hit the Yonakuni’s stern before it sailed off. About 40 minutes later it collided with another Japanese patrol boat, the Mizuki, the Coast Guard said.
Four Japanese patrol ships then pursued the Chinese vessel, and Coast Guard personnel later boarded it to question the captain and crew over the incident and on suspicion of violating Japan’s fisheries law.
The incident happened near a disputed string of five small islands – known as Senkaku in Japan, Diaoyu in China, and Diaoyutai in Taiwan – which lies between Japan’s far-southern Okinawa island and Taiwan.