Chinese boat skipper arrested off Japan's coast

AP News
Posted: Nov 06, 2011 10:10 PM
Chinese boat skipper arrested off Japan's coast

The Chinese skipper of a fishing boat has been arrested in waters off southwestern Japan after fleeing the coast guard and being chased down, Japanese authorities said.

Zhang Tianxiong was arrested Sunday about 100 miles (60 kilometers) off Japan's Goto islands in the East China Sea on charges of refusing inspection and fleeing authorities, the coast guard said.

According to the coast guard, Zhang, 47, from Fujian province in eastern China, refused an inspection after his 135-ton boat was sailing through Japanese waters. The boat ignored calls to stop, prompting a chase by the coast guard, which said it intentionally collided with the boat to stop it.

It was unclear why Zhang was fleeing. China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

If convicted, Zhang could face up to six months in jail or a fine of up to 300,000 yen ($3,840).

Foreign boats are prohibited from fishing in Japanese territory, although they can enter the waters for other purposes, such as just passing through or taking refuge, according to Japan's coast guard.

A collision between Japanese patrol boats and a Chinese trawler last year near disputed southern Japanese islands resulted in the arrest of the captain and sparked a diplomatic rift between the countries.

The September 2010 collision near islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China inflamed tensions between the countries, with Beijing suspending ministerial-level contacts.

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China also postponed talks on the joint development of undersea natural gas fields and halted Japan-bound exports of rare earth metals used in high-tech manufacturing. Several anti-Japanese demonstrations occurred across China.

The captain was later released and sent back to China after heavy pressure from Beijing.

Adding to the ruckus was a video leaked on YouTube that showed the trawler bumping one of the Japanese vessels amid sirens and shouting.

Japanese prosecutors dropped their case against the Chinese captain in January.

Sunday's incident, however, isn't likely to cause as big a stir because it happened in Japanese territorial waters, not disputed waters.


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