Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Image via WikipediaChina prime minister demands captain's release | World news | The Guardian
Wen Jiabao criticises Japan investigation after Chinese trawler collided with Japanese patrol ship near disputed islets
Anti-Japan protesters hold banners reading "Protect Diaoyu Islands" during a demonstration in Hong Kong. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP
China's premier Wen Jiabao has threatened further retaliation against Japan unless it releases a fishing boat captain, as the maritime dispute between the two countries escalates.
Wen is the most senior Chinese leader to comment on the row, which began earlier this month when a Chinese trawler collided with a Japanese patrol ship near disputed islets – known as the Diaoyu islands in China and Senkaku islands in Japan.
Tokyo, meanwhile, called for high-level bilateral talks, but said it would continue its investigation into the captain despite Beijing's demands for his immediate release.
Speaking to overseas Chinese and Chinese Americans on the sidelines of a United Nations summit in New York last night, Wen warned: "The Japanese side has paid no heed to China's numerous serious representations, and so China cannot but take necessary countermeasures.
"If Japan acts willfully despite advice to the contrary, China will take further actions, and Japan must accept full responsibility for all the severe consequences."
The incident had "stirred up anger for the entire Chinese people at home and abroad", Wen added, in comments carried on the website of China's foreign ministry.
The ministry had already said Wen would not meet Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan in New York because the atmosphere was not suitable. Beijing suspended ministerial and provincial level contacts after a Japanese court extended the captain's detention on Sunday.
Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshito Sengoku, said: "It would be good to have high-level talks as soon as possible, on issues including broad, strategic matters."
Foreign minister Seiji Maehara said he would be willing to meet Chinese officials in New York to explain Japan's response to the collision. "China is an important neighbouring country," he told reporters.
"We will have to build a strategic reciprocal relationship."
While he did not offer details, Sengoku conceded that Japan might have to take a "broader view" over Zhan Qixiong's detention to avoid inflicting further damage to ties with China. Some analysts expect Japan to release the captain without charge before his term of detention ends on 28 September, a move that would allow both sides to save face.