2011/01/15

China urges Taiwan to release fishermen: report

BEIJING, January 15, 2011 (AFP) - China has called for the release of four fishermen detained by a Taiwanese patrol vessel, state media said Saturday, in a rare dispute between the two sides amid warming ties.

The Taiwan Affairs Office in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian said a Chinese fishing boat was seized near the Jinmen islands in the Taiwan strait on Friday, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The islands are administered by Taiwan, but the Chinese authorities said fishermen from both sides had long operated in the area, according to Xinhua.

They called on Taiwan to release the four mainland Chinese "as soon as possible", the report said, giving no details on what led to their detention.

China and Taiwan have been divided since the late 1940s, when the Communist Red Army drove the Chinese Nationalists off the mainland to Taiwan. Taiwan went on to become a thriving democracy.

However, tensions between the two sides have eased since China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008, pledging to improve ties with Beijing.

Japan arrested a Chinese trawler captain in disputed waters after his vessel collided with Japanese coast guard ships in early September.

He was eventually released but the incident sparked a series of protests and snubs from Beijing and Japanese accusations that China was taking retaliatory economic measures.