UPDATE: Japan has released the crew of the Chinese fishing boat three days after they were detained. China has accepted Japan's conduct during the incident, terming it as a "regular fishery case".
Report: Japan releases Chinese fishing boat(BBC, 9 Nov 2011)
Japan’s coast guard on Sunday arrested the captain of a Chinese fishing boat after it refused an inspection, resulting in a four and a half hour chase, in the latest incident between two countries involved in maritime territorial dispute.
The boat was spotted by the coast guard near Goto islands off Nagasaki in southwestern Japan, but it ignored commands and signs in Chinese, according to the Nagasaki Coast Guard office.
This latest incident comes slightly more than a year after China-Japan relations plummeted following the separate detention of a Chinese skipper whose trawler collided with Japanese patrol boats near disputed islands in the East China Sea, whipping up nationalistic fervour in both countries. During that incident, China put heavy pressure on Japan after the arrest by cancelling all high-level contacts with Japan and stopping shipments of rare-earth minerals to Japan, causing Japan to dismiss all charges and release the captain.
But this time the Chinese boat was detained in an undisputed area clearly controlled by the Japanese. The governments and media of both countries also acted with restraint, and the incident appears unlikely to ratchet up tensions. While foreign boats are prohibited from fishing in Japanese territory, they can enter Japanese waters for other purposes, such as simply passing through or taking refuge, Japan’s coast guard said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said, “The case is being handled appropriately based on the Japanese law… We are considering it as an ordinary incident.” The Chinese foreign ministry has made no comment.
The Nagasaki coast guard said the fishing vessel and its ten crew members arrived at Nagasaki port on Monday afternoon. A Coast Guard official said, unlike the captain none of the crew members had been arrested, but will probably be questioned about the incident.
The East China Sea is at the centre of a territorial dispute between China and Japan, with the focus on uninhabited islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. China and Japan agreed in principle to resolve the dispute by jointly developing gas fields. However, little progress has been made and Japan has accused China of drilling for gas in violation of the deal.
Report: Japan arrests China fishing boat skipper (Reuters, 7 Nov 2011)
Report: Japan Arrests Chinese Skipper After 4 1/2-Hour Chase (VOA, 7 Nov 2011)
Report: Chinese boat skipper arrested off Japan’s coast after being chased by Japanese authorities (Washington Post, 7 Nov 2011)
Japan has said that it has not received any protest from Beijing following the arrest. The People’s Daily, the official news outlet of the Chinese Communist Party, reported the incident without much fanfare.
Report: Beijing quiet on seizure at sea (The Standard, 8 Nov 2011)
Report: Japan seizes Chinese boat, detains the captain (People’s Daily, 7 Nov 2011)