TOKYO - A rare moment of conciliation between China and Japan in their feud over disputed islands in the East China Sea arose on Thursday (Aug 11), after the Japan Coast Guard rescued a Chinese fishing boat that had collided with a Greece-flagged merchant ship near the islands.
A Japan Coast Guard crew rescued six Chinese crewmembers and searched for eight missing, the agency said, after the fishing boat sank just after 5 am, Japan Times reported.
It had collided with the 300-meter-long bulk carrier Anangel Courage about 65 km off Uotsuri Island, the largest in the group of Japan-controlled islets known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, the report said.
The cargo ship issued a distress signal, and the coast guard dispatched a vessel and a plane to the area, the Japan Coast Guard said.
Tokyo informed Beijing of the incident and the Chinese side “expressed appreciation” for the operation, the Japanese foreign ministry said in a statement according to Japan Times and Kyodo news agency.
Tensions between the two countries had ratcheted up recently after hundreds of Chinese boats sailed to waters close to the disputed islands, together with a record number of Chinese Coast Guard vessels.
Japan’s foreign ministry has summoned the Chinese ambassador to protest the “incursions”.
Ambassador Cheng Yonghua said on Wednesday that the flotilla is a response to a “big catch of fish” seen in the area, according to an official from Japan’s ruling party.
But Chinese analysts say the flotilla was a move by China to highlight its sovereignty claim in the sea, reported China’s Global Times newspaper.
On Wednesday, Washington weighed into the latest spat, saying that it opposed “any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of the Senkaku Islands”.