Japan accuses Chinese fishing boat of fleeing territorial waters with inspectors on board

  • An official complaint has been lodged over the incident, which occurred on November 5 off the southwestern Japanese prefecture of Kagoshima
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 December, 2018, 7:16pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 December, 2018, 8:41pm

Tokyo has lodged an official protest with Beijing after a Chinese trawler suspected of poaching in its waters sailed away with Japanese inspectors on board, the government said on Thursday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the boarding occurred on November 5 in Japan’s exclusive economic zone off Kagoshima, adding that a complaint about the “vicious” case had been made via diplomatic channels.

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The incident surfaced more than 50 days after it occurred when Suga responded to a reporter’s question following a news report. Suga did not explain why nothing was released earlier and the Foreign Ministry declined to give further details.

According to Japan’s Fisheries Agency, about 10 officials were on board the boat when it left the country’s territorial waters.

A 12-hour chase ensured, with the inspectors being returned to their own ship with the help of the Japanese coastguard. The Chinese trawler had to be let go since it had already escaped the exclusive economic zone, Japanese officials said.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters, “There is no truth that (the Chinese boat) conducted cross-border fishing.”

China is “strongly dissatisfied” with Japan’s inspection, Hua said, adding Tokyo “should not disturb legal operations by Chinese fishing vessels.”

The number of suspected Chinese poachers has been rising in recent years, prompting Japanese fisheries officials to step up patrolling. Four Chinese boats were captured for illegal fishing off the Japanese coast last year, according to the agency’s statistics.