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Trawler captain’s detention halts China-Japan exchanges

Date Posted: 2010-09-23

Japan’s decision to extend the detention of a Chinese fishing trawler captain is sending ripples of protest from China, leading to cancellation of many scheduled activities.

China declared there would be no meetings between the leaders of the two countries on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly this week, calling it inappropriate to arrange a bilateral summit in the current environment. China’s retaliating for Japan’s holding the captain of a vessel involved in collisions with two Japan Coast Guard vessels in the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea earlier this month. China also claims sovereignty over the islands, which it calls Diaoyu.

Earlier scheduled meetings between China’s National Tourism Administration and the Japanese Transport Minister have also been cancelled. Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara weighed in too, saying he will call off his planned visit to China next month, criticizing Beijing's decision to halt high-level exchanges over a bilateral territorial spat. Ishihara told reporters, "I would not visit China even if invited."

Concerts scheduled for next month in Shanghai by Japanese male pop group SMAP have been put off, its Japanese agent and the event's local organizer now say. The organizer said the concerts, scheduled for Oct. 9-10, were postponed because of technical reasons, but the group's agent, Johnny & Associates, signaled that behind the decision was escalating tension between Japan and China over the recent collision between a Chinese trawler and two Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels in disputed waters.

Given the current situation, concert-goers' safety needs to be considered, the Japanese agent said. SMAP was initially scheduled to perform live at the Shanghai Expo venue in June to mark the five-member group's first overseas show since its establishment in 1988,but the expo's secretariat canceled the event out of fear about a stampede of fans. Tickets to the October event were sold out, according to the organizer. Refunds of the tickets will start Saturday.

Hundreds of Chinese demonstrators rallied outside Japanese diplomatic offices in China over the weekend to protest the fishing boat incident, and security was tightened as Saturday marked the 79th anniversary of Japan's invasion of Manchuria, northeastern China. As Chinese authorities tried to maintain order, no violence was reported. Nearly 100 people gathered outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing, shouting, "Down with Japan, get out of the Diaoyu islands," referring to a chain of East China Sea islands which is at the center of the dispute. Around the Japanese embassy, more than 100 fire and police vehicles and several hundreds of police officers were deployed. The rally in front of the embassy lasted only for about 30 minutes.

An Okinawa Eisa dance group visiting China has been impacted by the feuding. Eisa dance group Okinawa City Sonda Youth Association and other groups were going to attend the Beijing International Tourism Festival to perform of Okinawan traditional entertainment in Beijing on Saturday, a friendship work operated by Japanese tourism minister. According to the friendship group, “Because of safety, we did cancel. Because in China has worsening of feeling toward Japan and demonstrations have happened here and there in China.”

The youth groups that had been scheduled to participate were attending from Okinawa, Aomori Prefecture, and Hokkaido, a total of 40 young people. They did attend the opening ceremony parade, but did not show their traditional performance. Group Chairman Masataka Nanbu said, “I feel very sorry”.

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