The government filed a damages suit with the Naha District Court in Okinawa Prefecture on Wednesday against the Chinese captain of a fishing boat that collided with Japan Coast Guard vessels in disputed waters off the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in September 2010.
The 44-year-old skipper, Zhan Qixiong, has not responded to repeated claims for damages of ¥14.29 million to cover repair costs by the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Naha.
Japanese authorities decided to take legal action before the right to damages legally expires on Feb. 20, Akihiro Ota, the minister for land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, said at a press conference earlier in the day.
Also Wednesday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told reporters in Beijing that Japan should “apologize and compensate” China for having “grossly infringed upon China’s territorial sovereignty and damaged Chinese fishermen’s legitimate rights and interests.”
“Any judicial measures adopted by the Japanese side against Chinese fishermen and fishing boats . . . are illegal and invalid,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. “We urge the Japanese side to stop provocation and take concrete actions to own up to and correct mistakes.”
According to the lawsuit, the Chinese trawler was operating in Japanese waters near the Senkakus on Sept. 7, 2010. The Chinese boat then collided with and caused damage to two coast guard patrol vessels — the Mizuki and Yonakuni — after being warned.
Tokyo has requested the captain on 11 occasions since February 2011 to pay the damages, but the Chinese skipper has not replied.
The Senkaku Islands are at the center of tensions between Japan and China, with the arrest of the captain, who was later released, having developed into a diplomatic row between Tokyo and Beijing.
Also Wednesday, the Japan Coast Guard released video footage of the collision as materials and documents in a civil lawsuit are open to the public.
Video footage of the incident was leaked to the YouTube video-sharing website in November 2010 by Masaharu Isshiki, a former Japan Coast Guardsman, triggering nationwide controversy over public servants’ obligation to keep government materials confidential.