Japan Arrests Chinese Fishermen Amid Report of Sea Hotline Talks

Japan detained the captains of two Chinese coral-fishing boats for refusing to allow their vessels to be searched, incidents that came amid a report the countries may resume talks to establish a maritime hotline.

The Japan Coast Guard on Dec. 27 arrested the captain of a Chinese vessel off Okinawa in southern Japan after he resisted an inspection, Koji Takarabe, chief of the agency’s PR unit, said today by phone. A second arrest, under similar circumstances, was made yesterday, he said.

Both ships were stopped within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, according to the coast guard.

Japan in November asked China to stop fishermen from poaching red coral from Japanese territorial waters and urged that vessels from the country leave an area around the Ogasawara Islands, about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) south of Tokyo. The countries are considering resuming talks in mid-January to set up a communications mechanism aimed at avoiding mishaps in coastal waters, the Nikkei newspaper reported yesterday, citing an unidentified senior defense ministry official.

Maritime policy, including a disagreement over the sovereignty of islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, was an obstacle to a summit between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two leaders met last month in Beijing, though an unsmiling Xi looked uncomfortable as he shook Abe’s hand before the encounter.

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