TOKYO - Japan's Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd paid about $29 million for the release of a ship seized by China over a dispute that dates back to the 1930s war between the countries, China's Supreme Court said on Thursday.
The Chinese government has described the case as a simple business dispute unrelated to wartime compensation claims, but it has become a cause celebre for activists in China seeking redress from Japan.
Mitsui paid about 2.92 billion yen ($28.5 million) in leasing fees, including interest and damages, China's Supreme Court said in a statement on its official microblog. Mitsui also paid 2.4 million yuan ($385,000) in legal fees, the court said.
Japanese media had earlier reported Mitsui paid about 4 billion yen ($39 million) to free the "Baosteel Emotion", a 226,434 deadweight-tonne ore carrier.
Tong Zeng, a veteran Chinese activist who has been leading the charge for wartime compensation from Japan and who has been advising the plaintiffs, said they would likely seek more money. "They say that the court calculations were incorrect and believe that some of the compensation, interest and penalty interest was not included," Tong told Reuters.
He thought it was a positive sign that Mitsui had paid up so quickly and expected more lawsuits connected to the war. "I think that henceforth the Chinese victims will continue to use legal weapons to seek justice from the Japanese government and Japanese companies." The ship was seized on Saturday over Mitsui's alleged failure to pay compensation for lease agreements on two Chinese ships that were broken in 1937, when war broke out between Japan and China.