Japan extends detention of Chinese boat captain held over collision near disputed islands

By Shino Yuasa, AP
Sunday, September 19, 2010

Japan extends Chinese boat captain’s detention

TOKYO — Japan extended the detention Sunday of a Chinese fishing boat captain arrested over a ship collision near disputed islands, an incident that sparked a diplomatic spat between Tokyo and Beijing and led to scattered nationalist protests in China.

The captain was taken into custody after his boat collided with two Japanese coast guard vessels on Sept. 7 near islands in the East China Sea claimed by both China and Japan. Beijing has repeatedly called for his immediate release.

Under Japanese law, prosecutors can hold a suspect for up to 20 days while deciding whether to file formal criminal charges.

The first 10-day detention period ended Sunday, but a Japanese court approved a 10-day extension, according to an official at the Naha Public Prosecutor’s Office in Okinawa, southern Japan. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The first two days of the captain’s detention were spent in police custody.

The extension came a day after anti-Japanese protests were held in several Chinese cities on the anniversary of the start of a Japanese invasion in 1931.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu called the extension “illegal and invalid.”

“We demand the immediate and unconditional release of the Chinese captain,” Ma said. “If Japan acts willfully, making mistake after mistake, China will take strong countermeasures, and all the consequences will be borne by the Japanese side.”

Japan’s new foreign minister, Seiji Maehara, a hawk who is expected to take a tough stance in relations with China, again called on Beijing to handle the dispute calmly. He said the case was being handled in accordance with Japanese law.

Maehara reiterated the government’s stance that there should be no territorial dispute over the islands because they are an “integral part of Japanese territory.”

“Territorial issues do not exist in this region,” Maehara said during a political talk show on public broadcaster NHK.

China, however, sees the captain’s detention and possible prosecution under Japanese law as a provocation and a challenge of its claim of sovereignty over the islands.

Japan last week sought to ease tensions by freeing 14 crew members from the Chinese trawler and returning the boat.

Associated Press Writer Gillian Wong in Beijing contributed to this report.

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