Japan freed 14 crew members of a Chinese fishing ship nearly a week after their vessel and two Japanese patrol boats collided near disputed southern islets. But China lashed out at Tokyo's decision to keep the captain in custody.
Such collisions in disputed waters have frequently touched off nationalistic protests among the broader population about sovereignty and also complicate efforts to improve ties between the two countries.
Beijing has said the confrontation could damage its relations with Japan, underlining the sensitivity of the territorial dispute in the East China Sea.
Japanese authorities, to ease tension, released 14 crewmembers but have retained the ship’s captain Zhan Qixiong. A Japanese court has granted prosecutors permission to keep the captain in custody until Sept. 19 to decide whether to formally indict him.
"China expresses strong dissatisfaction with and grave protest against Japan's obstinate decision to put the Chinese captain under the so-called judicial procedures," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu. "Japan will reap as it has sown, if it continues to act recklessly."
Tokyo sees this as its right but Beijing sees as provocation to its claim for sovereignty over the East China Sea islands, called Diaoyu or Diaoyutai Islands in Chinese or the Senkakus in Japanese. The islands are controlled by Japan, but also claimed by Taiwan and China.
Japan frees 14 crew, holds Chinese ship's captain [Associated Press, 14th September 2010]
Top Chinese diplomat demands Japan release fisherman [BBC, 12 September 2010]