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Chinese Fishing Vessel Collides with Japanese Patrol Ships near Disputed Islands

Photo: APSept. 9 – Zhan Qixiong, the captain of a Chinese trawling vessel that collided with two Japanese patrol ships near a disputed island chain in the East China Sea, arrived in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture this morning for questioning and possible prosecution.

No injuries were reported during the collisions and the fishing vessel’s 14 other crew members are free to return home provided the Chinese send a vessel to pick them up, according to the Japanese coast guard. The crew, who do not have passports, are waiting on the boat.

The incident happened on Tuesday in Japanese territorial waters just north of a group of uninhabited, disputed islands controlled by Japan, but claimed by Taiwan and China.

Referred to as the Senkaku Islands in Japanese, the Diaoyu Islands in Chinese, or the Pinnacle Islands in English, the island chain is located roughly 170 kilometers north of Japan’s Ishigaki Island, 186 kilometers northeast of Keelung, Taiwan, 380 kilometers east of Mainland China, and 410 kilometers west of Okinawa.

Officials with the Japanese coast guard have said that the 41-year-old Zhan is being held on charges including obstructing public duties.

When asked to comment on the matter at a regular press conference on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu responded with familiar Chinese rhetoric.

“The Diaoyu Islands and its adjacent islets have been Chinese territory since ancient times,” she said, possibly referencing the Chinese fishermen who the reporters at state-run Xinhua say used to collect herbs in the area.

“We demand Japanese patrol boats refrain from so-called law enforcement activities in waters off the Diaoyu Islands and refrain from actions that would threaten the security of Chinese fishing boats and their crews,” Jiang added.

Meanwhile, Japan’s foreign ministry said it has “summoned a minister-counselor at the Chinese embassy in Tokyo and lodged a protest over the incident.”

“We stated that the incident resulted from illegal fishing on China’s part,” the ministry said. “We asked the Chinese government help prevent a recurrence of the incident and give thorough instructions to Chinese fishing boats.”

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