The Chinese government has suspended all senior government contacts with Japan, state media said yesterday, after a Japanese court extended the detention of a Chinese trawler captain for ramming his trawler against Japanese coast guard boats near the Diaoyutais (釣魚台).
Japan’s decision has “seriously damaged Sino-Japan bilateral exchanges,” state television said, reading out a response from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu (馬朝旭) 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,” Ma said.
China has suspended ministerial and provincial-level bilateral exchanges with Japan, halted talks on increasing flights between the two countries and postponed a meeting about coal, the TV report said.
Beijing’s announcement came shortly after a Japanese court authorized prosecutors to extend Zhan Qixiong’s (詹其雄) detention by 10 days.
However, Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara 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 — called Senkaku in Japanese — 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.
Zhan was arrested on Sept. 8, the day after the collision in the East China Sea. His crew and ship were taken to Ishigaki in the Ryukus, but the 14 other crew members were sent home last Monday after investigations.
Zhan’s initial detention on suspicion of obstructing official duties was set to end yesterday.
“The Ishigaki summary court decided Sunday to extend his detention until September 29,” a spokesman for the local public prosecutors’ office said.
Earlier yesterday Tokyo said Beijing had helped restrain protests in several Chinese cities on Saturday over Zhan’s arrest.
The rallies also commemorated the anniversary of Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931.
As some chanted “Wipe out the Japanese devils!,” “down with the traitors to the motherland” and stamped on Japanese flags, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs called for calm.
Several hundred people protested without interference outside the Japanese consulate and a Japanese department store in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong opposition Legislator Albert Ho (何俊仁) criticized the Chinese government for trying to curb demonstrations.
“We are sad to see many of our compatriots in mainland China are being silenced,” Ho told reporters.
Maehara had played down the significance of the demonstrations, calling them “sporadic protest activities.”
“I think the Chinese government has made considerable efforts to restrain them,” he said in a televised talk show. “In this sense, it is imperative for both sides to deal with the matter in a level-headed manner.”
“In order to strengthen our strategic, mutually beneficial relations, both should discuss the matter thoroughly,” Maehara said.
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