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China plays down Japan's arrest of fisherman
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Nov 8, 2011

Beijing said Tuesday that Japan's arrest of a Chinese fishing boat captain was a "regular fishery case", in an indication the incident would not affect ties between the two Asian rivals.

The measured comments contrast markedly with China's furious reaction to another maritime incident in September 2010, when Japan arrested a Chinese trawler captain that rammed two coastguard patrol boats near disputed islands.

"This is a regular fishery case," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a regular briefing.

"China hopes that the Japanese side will take concrete measures to ensure the legitimate rights and interests of the fisherman and properly handle the issue as soon as possible."

The latest maritime incident happened on Sunday, when a Japanese coastguard patrol boat spotted two Chinese fishing boats in Japanese waters and gave chase when the vessels refused to stop for an on-board inspection.

The 47-year-old captain of one of the fishing boats was arrested after a four-and-a-half-hour chase and was detained along with 10 crew members. The patrol boat rammed the vessel to stop it getting away.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a regular press briefing on Monday that the case would be processed under Japanese law.

The Asian rivals have often had tense ties, particularly over disputed islands in the East China Sea called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Relations deteriorated markedly in September last year when Japan arrested the captain near these disputed islands.

China reacted with fury, issuing protests and scrapping meetings and cultural events in a diplomatic offensive that continued after Japan freed the captain, while nationalist sentiment sparked demonstrations in both countries.

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