China Warns of Further Action If Japan "Clings to Mistake"

China Warns of Further Action If Japan "Clings to Mistake"

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NEW YORK - Premier Wen Jiabao warned of further action against Japan if it does not release the illegally detained Chinese fishing trawler captain, in the highest-level reaction yet from Beijing.

"I strongly urge the Japanese side to release the captain immediately and unconditionally," Wen said when meeting with Chinese nationals and Chinese Americans in New York on Tuesday night.

He said the "illegal and unjustifiable" detention had inflicted great harm on the Chinese captain and his family, and sparked anger among Chinese people around the world.

"The Diaoyu Islands are sacred Chinese territory and if Japan clings obstinately to its mistake, China will take further actions. The Japanese side shall bear all the consequences that arise," Wen said.

He said Japan had turned a deaf ear to repeated Chinese protests over the captain's illegal detention, so China had no option but to take the necessary countermeasures.

The diplomatic row between the two nations, the worst in decades, began with the collisions between the Chinese trawler and two Japanese coast guard patrol vessels in waters off China's Diaoyu Islands on Sept 7, followed by the illegal seizure of the Chinese trawler and fishermen.

While 14 fishermen and the trawler returned home on Sept 13, the 41-year-old captain Zhan Qixiong is still being illegally detained in Japan. A Japanese court extended Zhan's detention to Sept 29, while it decides whether to pursue charges against him.

Beijing has summoned the Japanese Ambassador Uichiro Niwa six times to lodge strong protests, and is suspending all ministerial-level contacts with Tokyo.

Wen said Sino-Japanese ties had improved over the past few years through hard work from both sides, but the momentum had now suffered severe damage.

He urged Japan to correct its mistakes immediately so as to bring Sino-Japanese ties back on track, which conforms not only to the interests of the two countries, but also the world trend of peace and cooperation.

In response, Japan called for high-level talks to resolve the dispute, though Beijing has ruled out fence-mending talks between Wen and his Japanese counterpart Naoto Kan.

"It would be good to hold high-level talks, including a comprehensive and strategic dialogue, as quickly as possible," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshito Sengoku, said at a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.

In Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the continued detention of the Chinese captain is tantamount to blatant infringement on China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"The excuse made by Japan (over the detention) cannot stand," Jiang Yu said, adding that Japan will find "no way out" in their attempts to continue their tricks at fooling the public and the media.

Liu Jiangyong, professor at Beijing-based Tsinghua University, said China has been trying very hard to solve the issue through diplomatic negotiations, but Japan keeps on provoking China.

"Wen's harsh warning, together with China's countermeasures, has declared to the whole world that the Diaoyu Islands belong to China," Liu said.

He said China's retaliation could be upgraded and might result in the cutting-off of diplomatic relations.