China cancels official's Japan visit amid trawler row

The Chinese fishing vessel being led into a Japanese port 8 September 2010 The trawler was fishing in waters near islands claimed by both China and Japan

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China has postponed a senior official's visit to Japan amid a diplomatic row over the arrest of a Chinese skipper after a collision in disputed waters.

The trawler captain has been held since his ship hit two Japanese patrol boats a week ago near islands in the East China Sea claimed by China and Japan.

The Japanese authorities released the 14 crew members on Monday.

Meanwhile, Japan has turned back a boat of Taiwan activists who sailed to the islands to claim Taiwanese sovereignty.

Their return to Taipei prompted a protest outside the de facto Japanese embassy in Taipei, where demonstrators hurled fish and burned flags.

'Very regrettable'

The vice chair of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Li Jianguo, had been expected to visit Japan at the invitation of the Japanese lower house of parliament.

Diaoyu/Senkaku Dispute

  • The group of eight uninhabited islands in the East China Sea lie midway (about 200 nautical miles) between the eastern coast of mainland China and south-west of Japan's Okinawa
  • The islands and Taiwan itself were ceded to Japan by the Manchu emperor in 1895
  • After Japan's defeat in World War II, Taiwan was returned to the Kuomintang government, but not the islands
  • In recent years, as China's economic and military power has built up, Japan has strengthened its presence in the disputed areas and seized or dispelled fishing boats from both China and Taiwan
  • Activists from the Chinese community have made expeditionary trips to Diaoyu Island to assert claims of sovereignty

But Beijing said it was delaying the trip "for various reasons", a Japanese official said.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said the decision was "very regrettable", adding that "in times like these, lawmakers should be able to talk frankly".

Japanese prosecutors have until 19 September to decide whether to lay formal charges against the Chinese captain.

The Chinese fishing boat reportedly rammed Japanese coast guard patrol boats which had been trying to intercept it.

China has made repeated protests over the incident and warned that it could harm bilateral ties and has cancelled a series of diplomatic negotiations with Japan over oil and gas fields in the region in protest.

The area where the Chinese trawler was seized a week ago is close to uninhabited islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, which are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan.

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