|China releases Japan ship after paid in 1930s row
China on Thursday released a seized Japanese ship after its owner paid US$28 million in compensation, a court said, in a business dispute dating to the 1930s which underlines tensions between the countries.
The Shanghai Maritime Court announced Saturday it had impounded a large freighter owned by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines in accordance with the law, as the Japanese company had failed to compensate a Chinese firm for two ships chartered in 1936.
But the case had political overtones given uneasy ties between the two Asian giants, strained by a territorial dispute over islands in the East China Sea and China's perception that Japan has failed to make amends for atrocities committed during World War II.
"The court has delivered a ruling at 8:30 am on April 24, 2014, to lift the detention of the Baosteel Emotion ship,'' the court said in a statement.
Mitsui had "fulfilled its obligations'' by paying the compensation and additional court costs of around US$390,000, the court said. It did not name the Chinese party awarded the compensation.
The Japanese company said the released ship departed a Chinese port on Thursday afternoon, but warned the incident could have a "negative impact'' on its business activities in China.
The ship Baosteel Emotion, designed to carry iron ore, was docked at Majishan island off Shanghai, according to Chinese media reports.
Japan had lodged a formal diplomatic protest over the seizure and warned it could "intimidate Japanese companies doing business in China''.
Tokyo believes that the seizure undermined a 1972 joint communique that normalised ties between Japan and China, in which Beijing agreed to renounce any demands for war reparations.
China has insisted that the case was purely a commercial matter, and a government spokesman said Thursday that the dispute was handled under the law.
"A Chinese court has given a ruling in accordance with law and Mitsui O.S.K. has also paid compensation in accordance with the ruling of the Chinese court,'' foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular briefing.
"Therefore, the case has been handled.''
Japanese media suggested the seizure of the ship underlined China's growing assertiveness before US President Barack Obama's arrival in Tokyo on Wednesday on the first leg of an Asian tour.
In a separate case, Japanese trading house Marubeni said Thursday that three employees -- Chinese nationals working for subsidiary Columbia Grain -- might have been detained by Chinese authorities.
Qin, the foreign ministry spokesman, said he was unaware of the case. --AFP