|The Chinese fishing boat captain arrested by Japan returned to China on Saturday [AFP]
China has demanded that Japan apologise for arresting a Chinese fishing boat captain after his trawler collided with two Japanese coast guard vessels near disputed islands two weeks ago.
Zhan Qixiong, the trawler captain, arrived in the Chinese coastal city of Fuzhou on Saturday after being released by the Japanese, but remarks from the foreign ministry in Beijing suggested that his release was not the end of the dispute.
"This was an action that gravely violated Chinese sovereignty and the human rights of a Chinese citizen, and the Chinese government strongly protests," a foreign ministry statement said.
"It is unlawful and invalid for Japan to detain and investigate the boat captain and to take any legal measures against him.
"Japan must offer China an apology and compensation over this incident."
Speaking after the release of Zhan on Friday, Naoto Kan, Japan's prime minister had sought to repair relations between Asia's two biggest economies.
"China and Japan are important neighbours with important responsibilities in the international community," Kan said in New York, where he was attendeding the UN General Assembly.
"In order to further grow our mutually beneficial relationship based on strategic interests, I believe it is necessary for Japan and China to handle matters calmly."
Japanese prosecutors said that the damage done to relations with Beijing had been a factor in their decision to free Zhan.
Japan's sluggish economy has become increasingly reliant on China for growth. China became Japan's biggest trading partner last year and bilateral trade reached $148 billion in the January-June period, a jump of 34.5 per cent over the same time last year.
But the dispute highlighted has highlighted fragile ties between the two nations remain amid ongoing Chinese anger at Japanese occupation during the second world war and territorial disagreements in the East China Sea.
The Chinese trawler captain was detained near a group of uninhabited islands, known as Diaoyu in China and as Senkaku in Japan, that are contested by the two nations.
They lie in an area with rich fishing grounds and that is believed to have sizeable oil and gas deposits. The islands are also claimed by Taiwan.