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China Breaks Off Talks as Row with Japan Escalates

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China has suspended top-level exchanges with Japan, as the row about the detention of a Chinese ship captain deepened Monday. The break-off of ministerial and provincial-level contacts follows a weekend of small anti-Japanese protests in Chinaand has pushed already tense relations to a new low.

China suspended ministerial meetings with Japan, Monday, as the rift about the detention of a Chinese fishing boat captain arrested after a ship collision near disputed islands escalates.

Japanese officials were quick to respond, saying it was not officially informed of China's decision to break off high-level government contacts -- including talks on aviation and coal. The Chinese announcement follows a strained weekend marked by protest in several Chinese cities and tough statements.

Heavily outnumbered by police and journalists, around a 100 Chinese demonstrators held up placards and shouted slogans such as "crush Japan" and "get out of the islands" outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing.

Such demonstrations are rare in China and are carefully choreographed and heavily policed when they do occur -- often with state backing.

Similar scenes took place in Shanghai.

China warned last week it would take strong measures if Japan did not immediately release the Chinese captain whose ship collided with Japanese coast guard vessels near the disputed islands in the East China Sea.

The islands are close to strategically important shipping lanes and offer rich fishing grounds. They are also thought to contain oil and gas deposits.

The 14 Chinese crew members were released last week, but the captain's detention for further ten days of questioning -- and pending a decision about whether to press charges -- has inflamed ever-present anti-Japanese sentiment in China.

A foreign ministry statement read on Chinese state television says the captain's detention has seriously damaged Sino-Japan bilateral exchanges.

The statement also says the judicial measures against the Chinese captain are what it describes as "illegal and invalid."

It says China will take strong counter-measures and that Japan will have to take what is says is "all the consequences."

Article by Peter Simpson, VOA News