Japan released a Chinese fishing boat captain on Wednesday, three days after his arrest for refusing a coast guard inspection in Japanese territorial waters, putting a quick end to the latest in a series of maritime incidents between Asia's largest economies.
The release comes little more than a year after tensions between Japan and China flared up following a detention of the captain of a Chinese trawler that collided with Japanese patrol boats near disputed islets in the East China Sea.
The isles, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are located near potentially rich maritime gas reserves.
That clash stirred nationalistic frenzy in both countries and severely strained diplomatic relations.
This time, however, the Chinese ship was detained in an area that is not a subject of territorial disputes, the coast guard said.
I understand the case was handled properly based on the law and evidence, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a regular news conference, adding that the incident was unlikely to affect bilateral ties.
The skipper, released after he paid a fine, had taken his boat into waters near the Goto islands off Nagasaki in southwestern Japan on Sunday when it was spotted by the coast guard, according to the Nagasaki Coast Guard Office. The vessel ignored requests to stop, including signs in Chinese, it said.
China had urged Tokyo on Tuesday to resolve the arrest quickly and appropriately, calling it an ordinary fishing incident.
The prosecutors' office in Fukuoka, near Nagasaki, said the skipper was released after paying a fine of 300,000 yen $3,860 (2,398.56 pounds). He and 10 crew members sailed out of Nagasaki, the coast guard said.
In August, Japan's coast guard arrested the skippers of two Chinese fishing boats that were operating without permission in waters Japan considers its exclusive economic zone.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Michael Watson)