China asks Philippines to release seized ship and crew

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's foreign ministry said on Wednesday that it had asked the Philippines to hand back a Chinese fishing boat and its crew seized by Philippines police in disputed waters in the South China Sea.

The Philippines should stop taking provocative actions, ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

The Philippines arrested a Chinese fishing boat with 11 crew and a haul of about 500 turtles off a disputed shoal in the Spratlys but within the country's exclusive economic zone, a senior maritime police official said on Wednesday.

Maritime police on patrol arrested the Chinese fishing boat off Half Moon Shoal on Tuesday, said Chief Superintendent Noel Vargas, head of the Philippine National Police maritime group.

"The fishing boat is now being towed to Palawan where appropriate charges will be filed against them," Mr Vargas said.

The shoal is some 100 km (60 miles) from the Philippines'southwestern Palawan island.