Japan to free Chinese fisherman to ease tensions

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Japan to free Chinese fisherman to ease tensions

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Japan has said it’s to release a Chinese fishing boat captain in an effort to end a bitter row with Beijing.

The arrest of Zhan Qixiong sparked a furious reaction from China and one of the worst diplomatic spats in years between the two Asian countries.

He was accused of deliberately ramming two Japanese patrol boats in disputed waters. Despite that, authorities in Japan now say he is free to go.

Naha District Prosecutor Toru Suzuki said: ‘‘After taking into consideration the effect that it would have upon our country and people, as well as how it would negatively affect China-Japan relations, we decided that it was not appropriate to continue holding the suspect.’‘

The roots of the squabble arguably lie much deeper.

The Senkakus, where the trawler captain was arrested, are controlled by Japan and remain at the heart of a long-standing territorial dispute. The area is known to have rich fishing grounds and thought to have huge oil and gas deposits.

The diplomatic fallout caused widespread protests both in China and Japan.

But hopes the dispute might now be over look far from certain. News of the captain’s imminent release came amid reports of four Japanese nationals being arrested in China after allegedly entering a military zone.