Japan warns of fanning nationalism in dispute with China over detained fishing captain

TOKYO (AP) — Japan warned Tuesday against fanning "extreme nationalism" in a diplomatic standoff with China over the detention of a Chinese fishing captain after his boat collided with Japanese vessels near disputed islands.

Relations between the countries have been on a downward spiral since the captain was detained nearly two weeks ago. Over the weekend, China said it was suspending ministerial and provincial-level contacts, halting talks on aviation issues and postponing meetings to discuss energy-related issues, including a second round of talks with Japan on developing natural gas fields in the East China Sea.

"We should be careful not to stir up narrow-minded, extreme nationalism," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku told a televised news conference Tuesday. "We should try to resolve the problem without escalating the situation, and we'll call for measures through all possible channels."

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa urged China to provide accurate information on the Sept. 7 incident to its people to avoid worsening anti-Japan sentiment. Japan says the Chinese fishing boat collided with two Japanese patrol boats in the East China Sea.

The United States also appealed for calm, with Acting Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark C. Toner saying it expects the dispute to be "resolved through appropriate diplomatic means."

The tensions have sent ties to their lowest level since the 2001-2006 term of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, whose repeated visits to a war shrine in Japan enraged China. They have raised questions about cooperation between the nations at international forums such as this week's summit in New York on United Nations goals to fight poverty that Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao are attending.

While competitors, the economies of China and Japan, the world's second- and third-biggest, have become more intertwined in recent years, and there have been no signs the dispute will hurt business relations.

So far, it has only manifested itself in anti-Japanese protests in China and in tourism, with an official Chinese youth organization calling off a visit by 1,000 young Japanese to Shanghai.

On Tuesday, Japanese Transport Minister Sumio Mabuchi said he had canceled a Beijing-requested meeting with officials from China's National Tourism Administration on the sidelines of the APEC tourism ministers' meeting in Nara in southern Japan on Wednesday.

The fishing boat's 14 Chinese crew were released last week, but captain Zhan Qixiong was held. Late Sunday, shortly after a Japanese court approved a 10-day extension of his detention, Beijing announced the suspension of contacts.


Associated Press writer Scott McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.