Japan releases Chinese fishermen: China state media

rahimi20130203213041500Japan has freed the captain and crew of a Chinese fishing boat, which had been stopped off Okinawa amid tension between Tokyo and Beijing over a territorial row, Chinese state media report.

According to the local branch of the Japan coastguard, on Saturday the coral fishing boat with a crew of 13 was stopped by a coastguard patrol in waters some 46 kilometers (29 miles) northeast of Miyako Island.

On Sunday, Tokyo released the captain and crew of the boat who had been detained on suspicion of fishing in the exclusive maritime zone without Japan’s permission.

The release came after the Chinese consulate general in the city of Fukuoka submitted a bail guarantee, Xinhua said.

Miyako is located in the Okinawa Prefecture and lies 150 kilometers away from a chain of islands in the East China Sea claimed by both countries.

Japan and China have long been in a dispute over the sovereignty of the uninhabited islands, which are located near a crucial shipping lane and would give the owner exclusive oil, mineral, and fishing rights in the surrounding waters.

The islands, which are controlled by Japan and form part of Okinawa prefecture, are known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Japan’s prime minister vowed on Saturday to defend the islands from threats by China.

“The security environment surrounding our country is increasingly becoming more severe as we face provocation to our territorial rights,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

“I will take the lead to stand up against the present danger and protect the people’s lives and asset, as well as our land, the seas and the air at all costs.”

Tensions heightened between the two countries after Japan signed a deal on September 11, 2012 to buy three of the islands from their private Japanese owner in line with plans to nationalize the archipelago.

Hundreds of Chinese held anti-Japan demonstrations following the announcement. Chinese ships have also since been sailing around the islands, eliciting angry reaction from Japan.

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