NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – The coast guard arrested the captain of a Chinese boat Saturday on suspicion of illegally fishing for coral in Japan’s exclusive economic zone near Miyako Island, Okinawa Prefecture.
The vessel’s 63-year-old skipper, Xue Changlong, told Japan Coast Guard officials he is Chinese and has admitted to operating without permission in waters about 46 km east-northeast of Miyako at around 7:45 a.m., the coast guard reported.
It is the first arrest of a Chinese vessel’s captain since September 2010 for illicit fishing in waters patrolled by the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Naha, the prefectural capital of Okinawa.
The skipper was apprehended around 8:55 a.m., after a coast guard plane confirmed that the Chinese boat was illegally fishing in Japan’s territorial waters. The coast guard said the vessel tried to escape when its cutters arrived at the scene, but was eventually stopped after coast guard officials jumped aboard the roughly 100-ton fishing boat.
The 12 other crew members also told coast guard officials they are Chinese.
In the 2010 incident, the coast guard apprehended the skipper of a Chinese trawler that had rammed Japanese patrol boats in waters around the Japan-held Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, significantly worsening ties between Asia’s two largest economies.
The sovereignty of the uninhabited islet chain is fiercely disputed by both China, which knows the isles as Diaoyu, and Taiwan, which refers to them as Tiaoyutai.
Sino-Japanese relations have remained extremely tense since Tokyo purchased three of the main Senkaku islets in mid-September, effectively nationalizing the entire group.