China has called on North Korea to secure the release of a fishing boat and its crew seized earlier this month.
Owner Yu Xuejun said the vessel had been in Chinese waters when the 16-man crew were seized on May 5.
Yu Xuejun said the North Korean captors were demanding a 600,000 yuan ($100,000) ransom.
State-run Xinhua news agency said that diplomats in Pyongyang had been asked for help on May 10 and were working on the issue.
“Upon receiving the call, the Chinese embassy promptly made representations to the… DPRK [North Korean] Foreign Ministry, asking the DPRK side to release the boat and the fishermen as soon as possible,” the agency quoted Counsellor Jiang Yaxian of Beijing’s embassy in Pyongyang as saying.
It called for the crews’ “legitimate rights and interests” to be safeguarded, he added.
Boat-owner Yu Xuejun told Global Times newspaper he had received eight calls from the people holding his crew demanding the ransom.
There have been incidents in the past in the Yellow Sea, which lies between China and the Korean peninsula and has rich fishing grounds.
In May 2012, 29 Chinese fishermen and three vessels were seized by unidentified North Koreans.
China has called on North Korea to secure the release of Yu Xuejun’s fishing boat and its crew seized earlier this month
They were freed after two weeks and it was not clear whether a ransom had been paid, nor whether the captors had been the North Korean authorities or autonomous kidnappers.
China has traditionally been North Korea’s closest ally. But in the wake of Pyongyang’s third nuclear test, on February 12, ties between the two have chilled.
Beijing backed expanded sanctions on Pyongyang over the test and some of its banks have suspended transactions with North Korea’s main foreign exchange bank.
Chinese state press has also become more vocal on the issue, openly debating the merits of alliance with Pyongyang.
Since Saturday, North Korea has fired five short-range missiles off its coast: three on Saturday, and one on both Sunday and Monday.
“North Korea again launched what appears to be a KN-02 short-range missile,” a defense ministry official told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency on Monday.
“We are closely watching the movements of the North’s military in case of further launches.”
The tests also prompted a warning from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday.
“I hope that North Korea will refrain from such actions,” Ban ki-moon, who was visiting Moscow, told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency.
“It is time for them to resume dialogue and lower the tensions.”
North Korea routinely test-fires these kinds of missiles, but such a sustained launch period is unusual.
There is worry in South Korea that, after suspending the joint Korean economic zone Kaesong Industrial Complex, and restarting its mothballed nuclear facility, North Korea is planning further actions that may ignite an international response.
Japan’s coast guard has detained a Chinese fishing boat for allegedly fishing inside Japanese waters, Chinese officials say.
The boat was seized on Saturday near Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture, China’s Xinhua news agency reported, citing the Chinese consulate in Fukuoka, Japan.
The captain had admitted entering Japanese waters, Xinhua said.
Japan’s coast guard has detained a Chinese fishing boat for allegedly fishing inside Japanese waters
The incident comes months after anti-Japanese protests in Chinese cities over disputed islands near Taiwan.
The captain and two crew members have been taken to Kagoshima for questioning while six other sailors remained on board the boat, which comes from Fujian province in south-east China, Xinhua said.
A Chinese consulate official has been sent to Kagoshima to visit the crew members, the report added.
Relations between Japan and China have been strained over the disputed islands, known as the Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese.
Japan controls the islands, which are also claimed by Taiwan. Close to strategically important shipping lanes, the waters around the islands also offer rich fishing grounds and are thought to contain oil deposits.
American company Princess Cruises says it deeply regrets that one of its ships failed to stop to help a fishing boat adrift in the Pacific Ocean.
Two of the three Panamanians on board the disabled vessel later died.
Princess Cruises said that although passengers on the cruise ship had spotted the castaways and alerted staff, the captain had not been told.
The one surviving fisherman – Adrian Vasquez, 18 – was later rescued after 28 days at sea.
Adrian Vasquez had reported that – after 16 days adrift – he and his companions saw a cruise ship sailing past, despite desperate attempts to flag it down.
Three birdwatchers on board the cruise ship – the Star Princess – said they had spotted the fishermen waving for help and told ship staff, but had been unable to persuade them to change course.
Princess Cruises says it deeply regrets that Star Princess ship failed to stop to help a fishing boat adrift in the Pacific Ocean
In a statement, Princess Cruises said a preliminary investigation had found that there appeared to have been a “breakdown in communication” in relaying the passengers’ concern.
It said Captain Edward Perrin and the officer of the watch were not notified.
“Understandably, Captain Perrin is devastated that he is being accused of knowingly turning his back on people in distress,” the statement said.
“Had the captain received this information, he would have had the opportunity to respond.”
Princess Cruises added that it understood its responsibility under the law of the sea to help any vessel in distress, and said its ships had been involved in more than 30 rescues over the past decade.
It said the investigation was continuing.
Adrian Vasquez was eventually rescued 1,000 km (620 miles) off the mainland, near the Galapagos Islands.
He said he survived after his friends died thanks to a sudden rainstorm that replenished his drinking water supplies.
Adrian Vasquez told the Associated Press he still felt anger at the ship he saw sail past two weeks before his rescue.
“I said <<God will not forgive them>>,” he said.