Japan indicts Chinese skipper for illegal fishing

TOKYO - The skipper of a Chinese fishing boat who was detained after a six-hour high-seas pursuit has been indicted by prosecutors for operating illegally in Japanese waters, a local official said Friday.

The Nagasaki District Public Prosecutors Office has finalised its case against Zhong Jinyin, 39, the official said, following his December 20 arrest near islands off southwest Japan.

It was not clear when he would appear in court.

The arrest was the second in the area in less than two months and Japanese officers found coral and tools on the boat.

Arrests by Japan of straying Chinese fishermen are increasingly common and usually pass off without much of a hitch, but can occasionally flare up.

The two Asian rivals are still trying to heal diplomatic wounds from a year ago when Beijing reacted in fury over the arrest of one of its fishermen near disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Japanese authorities last week arrested another Chinese fishing boat captain, who was later released after paying a fine of 300,000 yen ($3,900), Jiji Press and other local media reported.

Beijing said it was working towards a solution of the Nagasaki case.

"It's an ordinary fishing case. China is stepping up its close communications with the Japanese side to seek a proper settlement of the incident," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular press briefing.

"The Chinese government always requires its fishermen to fish lawfully, and the competent authorities have done a lot of work and will continue to strengthen regulation, management and education of fishermen."

During a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to China this week, Tokyo and Beijing agreed to set up a high-level meeting on maritime affairs in an effort to reduce tensions.