China spurns demand to pay for Senkaku ship collisions

BEIJING (Kyodo) China on Saturday rejected the Japan Coast Guard’s demand that a Chinese trawler captain pay for repairs to two patrol vessels it damaged during their run-in near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea last year.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement that the islands, administered by Japan and known as the Diaoyu in Chinese, are an integral part of Chinese territory from ancient times and Japan has “no right” to seek compensation.

The Japanese authorities, he said, should “reflect” on their actions following the collisions in September, for which the Chinese skipper, Zhan Qixiong, was arrested on suspicion of deliberately ramming one of the patrol boats. The cutters were trying to evict the trawler from the area.

The captain was later released and returned to China after the situation developed into a diplomatic dispute.

Japanese prosecutors dropped the case in January.

Even so, the coast guard on Thursday sent a claim amounting to around ¥14.29 million to the 41-year-old skipper for the cost to repair the two patrol vessels and the remainder for other costs, including money spent to mobilize officials and move the ship.

The bill is addressed to the skipper as an individual, and not to China as a state.

“We will continue demanding the money in a businesslike manner until payment is made,” a coast guard official said.