China halts top-level exchanges with Japan

China on Sunday temporarily suspended top-level exchanges with Tokyo.

Last Updated: Sep 20, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

Beijing: China on Sunday temporarily
suspended top-level exchanges with Tokyo after a Japanese
court extended the detention of the captain of a Chinese
trawler involved in a collision with Japanese patrol boats as
the diplomatic row between the two nations escalated.

China`s state broadcaster CCTV said Japan`s refusal to
release 41-year-old Zhan Qixiong has "already caused serious
damage to Sino-Japanese bilateral contacts."

It said Beijing has suspended ministerial and
provincial-level contacts, halted talks on aviation issues and
postponed a meeting to discuss issues linked to coal.

China had warned Japan that it will take "strong
counter measures" as a Japanese court today extended the
custody of the captain of a Chinese fishing vessel caught off
disputed Diaoyu islands in East China Sea till September 29.

"We demand the Japanese side immediately release the
Chinese captain unconditionally," Chinese Foreign Ministry
spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

"China will take strong counter measures if the
Japanese side clings obstinately to its own course and double
its mistakes, and Japan shall bear all the consequences," Ma
said in statement reacting to reports that custody of Zhan
Qixiong the skipper of the Chinese fishing trawler has been
extended by another ten days.

The disputed islands are known as Senkaku in Japan and
Diaoyu in China.

The extension of the detention of the Captain dashed
hopes here that the new Japanese government headed by Naoto
Kan would intervene to bring down the tensions.

China, which has lodged several protests with the
Japanese ambassador here, has already suspended bilateral
exchanges above the provincial or ministerial levels, Xinhua
news agency quoted Foreign Ministry officials as saying.

China has halted contact with Japan on the issues of
increasing civil flights and expanding aviation rights between
the two countries. A bilateral meeting on coal has also been
postponed.

The Japanese court extended the detention of the
Chinese captain held over a ship collision near
disputed islands. The islands are administered by Japan while
China and Taiwan also claim territorial rights over them.

"His detention was extended for further questioning.
He will be held until Sept. 29," an official was quoted as
saying in the media.

Amid the escalation of the diplomatic row, Japanese
vessels have thrown a two-layer cordon around the islands and
are not allowing any Chinese boats to enter the waters, the
skipper of a Chinese Fisheries Administration ship, which was
sent to the island to assert the rights of the Chinese
fishermen, said Shen Changling, the captain of the vessel
Fishery Administration 202 which was sent to the island to
assert the rights of the Chinese fishermen.

"The first cordon lies 12 nautical miles (22 kms) off
the islands. If a Chinese ship breaks two cordons, the JCG may
take action to have it seized," he was quoted as saying by the
state-run `Global Times` today.

The Sino-Japanese tensions escalated after JCG vessels
seized a Chinese fishing vessel off the island waters on
September 7 and detained its captain, charging him with
ramming his vessel into two JCG ships. Japan released 14 crew
members as well as the trawler, but the captain remains in
detention.

China has lodged several protests with Japan demanding
the captain`s release and sent its fisheries vessels to the
area to protect the Chinese fishermen.

Shen said the JCG sent seven patrol vessels to monitor
the two Chinese fishery ships and intercepted them before the
12 nautical miles.

Japanese patrol vessel PL64, through its radio, warned
the Chinese ships not to cross the line.

A message written in Chinese characters on a large
display on the starboard side of the vessel said, "this is a
Japanese patrol vessel. Your ship is about to sail into
Japanese waters."

"We responded, (saying that) Diaoyu Islands have been
part of Chinese territory since ancient times, thus we are
patrolling in Chinese waters. Please leave the area and stop
your illegal harassment of Chinese boats,`" Shen said.

"Normally, a safe distance between two sailing ships is
two to three nautical miles. But Japanese patrol vessels were
less than one nautical mile away when they were trying to
intercept us. That was too close for comfort," the newspaper
quoted him as saying.

In the meantime, the number of Chinese citizens
travelling to Japan as tourists has already declined,
according to the officials reports here.

PTI