Japan frees detained Chinese crew, boat

The Japanese Coast Guard released the captain and crew of a Chinese boat detained for illegally operating in waters southeast of islands claimed by both countries.

The captain, who was arrested Saturday, and 12 crewmembers of the 100-ton boat were released Sunday after the Chinese consulate in Fukuoka guaranteed payment of a 4 million yen ($44,000) bail, coast guard official Yasuhiko Oku said.

Oku said that the captain admitted he was inside Japanese exclusive economic waters off Miyako Island on Saturday. The boat was collecting coral, which is often used for jewelry and ornaments.

The incident happened about 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of Japanese-controlled islands called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. The islands are at the center of a diplomatic spat between the Asian neighbors.

The coast guard also reported that two Chinese maritime surveillance ships were sighted near the disputed islands Monday. Chinese government ships have repeatedly entered what Japan considers territorial waters around the rocky outcroppings since last September, when the Japanese government bought the islands from their private Japanese owners.

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