Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Japan demands compensation from Chinese captain

Japan's government has filed a lawsuit against the captain of a Chinese fishing boat over a collision between his ship and Japan Coast Guard patrol boats 4 years ago near the Senkaku Islands in East China Sea. The government is demanding that the captain pay for repairs to the Japanese vessels.

The incident occurred in Japanese territorial waters near the islands in 2010. Japan controls the islands. China and Taiwan claim them.

The captain was arrested for obstructing the discharge of official duties, but was later released without indictment and sent back to China.

In 2011, the Coast Guard demanded that the captain pay compensation of about 14 million yen, about 137,000 dollars. Although Coast Guard officials sent him 11 demand notices over 3 years, there is reportedly no confirmation of payment from the captain.

The government filed a damages suit for the same amount on Wednesday at the Naha District Court in Okinawa Prefecture. It said it took the move to suspend the statute of limitations, as the right to claim damages will expire otherwise.

The Coast Guard decided to make public video footage of the collision in line with the government's move. The footage was leaked on the Internet by one of its officials at the time following the incident.

The Naha District Public Prosecutors Office later took measures of suspension of indictment in the captain's case. But he was mandatorily indicted by the Okinawa prosecution review commission. However, the Chinese side refused to send procedures on sending a written indictment to the captain, which led to a halt of the trial.

Earlier on Wednesday, transport minister Akihiro Ota told reporters about the government's intention to file the damages suit, and said the Chinese captain should pay for the repairs. He added that the government has decided to release the video to the public.

China has called the Japanese government's legal action a provocation.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on Wednesday that the collision was a serious case in which Japan violated China's territorial sovereignty and undermined legitimate interests of Chinese fishermen.

She said China demands that Japan stop its provocation, acknowledge its mistake and act to correct it.