Japan and China remained at loggerheads Tuesday over the arrest of the captain of a Chinese fishing boat, with some Japanese officials joining their Chinese counterparts in canceling scheduled meetings despite Japan’s top government spokesman calling for self-restraint from both sides.
Both Japan and China “should not arouse extreme nationalism,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said at a news conference in the wake of Beijing’s announcement it had suspended ministerial- and higher-level exchanges to protest Tokyo’s detention of the skipper.
“We will use various channels to call on China to resolve this issue without escalating it further from the standpoint of forging strategic, mutually beneficial relations and of peace and prosperity in East Asia and Asia-Pacific,” Sengoku said.
Despite the central government’s call for calm, some Japanese officials canceled their China-related schedules because of the bilateral row. One was Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who said he wasn’t going to China as scheduled next month.
The spat stems from an incident earlier this month in which the Chinese captain was arrested by the Japan Coast Guard for allegedly colliding with two coast guard vessels near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The arrest has sparked protests from China while repeatedly calling for the captain’s release.
Sengoku said Tokyo will try to “convince (China) to understand how Japan’s judicial system works.”
Japan maintains that the skipper’s case is being handled based on Japanese law.
But China has hardened its stance after an Okinawa court on Sunday allowed prosecutors to extend their detention of the captain for another 10 days, suspending ministerial and higher-level exchanges with Japan as well as bilateral negotiations on increasing the number of air routes between the two nations, according to Xinhua news agency, which quote the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Japan had not been formally notified by China about the suspension of ministerial-level talks, Sengoku said, adding that Prime Minister Naoto Kan has no plans yet to meet with his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of this week’s U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York.
Among the repercussions of the worsening bilateral relations was China’s cancellation of a visit by a group of 1,000 young Japanese to the Shanghai World Expo.
On the Japanese side, Tokyo Gov. Ishihara took a swipe at China, saying, “Even if they ask me to come, I will not go.”
Land, Transport, Infrastructure and Tourism Minister Sumio Mabuchi said he wouldn’t be meeting a deputy chief of China’s tourism administration, who was scheduled to pay a courtesy call on him Wednesday on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting in the city of Nara.
According to the Japan Tourism Agency, Japanese authorities informed China on Monday that Mabuchi would decline the courtesy call.
Mabuchi also said his ministry will continue working on bilateral air route negotiations as he has not been informed by China about a halt in such talks.
Later in the day, he said the ministry had no plan to unveil video footage that recorded the collision of the Chinese fishing boat with the Japan Coast Guard vessels, which could help defuse growing tensions.
“I watched it on DVD,” Mabuchi said during an interview with news organizations, but he said the government will not disclose the video to the public as the judicial authorities may use it as evidence during a trial.
Most Japanese officials continued to call for calm.
“We need to respond in a level-headed manner to avoid having any impact,” Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said.
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