By Bao Daozu, China Daily
BEIJING - The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday accused Japan of provoking a
serious situation in bilateral relations and once again demanded the immediate return of the captain of a Chinese trawler,
still illegally detained in the country.
"Japan provoked this serious situation and it should take full responsibility," ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a regular press conference on Tuesday.
The trawler was intercepted by Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels in waters off China's Diaoyu Islands on Sept 7. Its 14 crew returned home on a chartered flight sent by the Chinese government on Monday but their captain, Zhan Qixiong, is still being held by the Japanese.
Some Chinese experts have said that the tough stance taken by Japan over the Diaoyu Islands was related to its domestic politics and, in particular, a crucial ruling party vote on Tuesday.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan defeated a challenge by the Democratic Party of Japan powerbroker, Ichiro Ozawa, after lawmakers and members of the governing party voted to keep Kan as leader by 721 to 491 points in a weighted voting system.
Both men talked tough over the Diaoyu Islands before the party election in an effort to drum up support.
Jiang said it was "imperative" that the captain be allowed to return home "immediately and safely".
A Japanese court ruled on Friday that Zhan could be detained until Sept 19 when prosecutors have to decide whether to lay "formal charges" against him.
Japan must "immediately cease the so-called legal procedures" against the captain, Jiang said.
After taking into account "all aspects", China postponed a senior official's visit to Tokyo, she said, without elaborating.
AFP reported that Li Jianguo, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, was scheduled to visit Japan for a five-day trip starting Wednesday at the invitation of the Japanese lower house of parliament, citing a Japanese parliament official.
Jiang reiterated China's sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands.
She said the Chinese people had expressed their rage over the incident, showing "their firm will and determination to safeguard China's sovereignty and territory".
"The Diaoyu Islands have been China's territory since ancient times and such a fact cannot be changed by anyone," she said.
"China was the first country to discover the Diaoyu Islands and execute effective jurisdiction over the islands. China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands," she said.
Referring to a Japanese elementary and junior high school pelted with stones in Tianjin, Jiang said the Chinese government had always protected the safety of foreign organizations and people in China and will do so in the future.
"We do not approve of radical activities and we believe the Chinese people will express their will in a rational way," Jiang said.
It was reported that the windows of the school, which has 193 Japanese students, were smashed. No one was injured.
Yang Bojiang, a Beijing-based researcher on Japan studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said he hoped Kan could seize the chance of his victory to reach an appropriate solution.
If the Japanese administration would look at this issue in a new light "and release the Chinese captain, the current deadlock might be resolved", he said.
Zhou Yongsheng, professor of Japan studies at the China Foreign Affairs University, said if the current tension drags on, "it will deeply hurt bilateral ties".
But others expressed optimism over the relationship.
Shigemura Toshimitsu, professor of Waseda University in Japan, told China Daily that "Kan's party and government want to have a better relationship with China. His victory means Japan's policy will remain stable. There will be no big changes for Japan-China ties".