TOKYO — Japan asked China to pay for damage to Japanese patrol boats hit by a Chinese fishing vessel near disputed islands, as simmering tension between the two Asian neighbors showed no signs of easing Monday.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku's remarks came a day after Japan's prime minister rejected China's demand that Tokyo apologize and offer compensation for the arrest of the Chinese boat captain earlier this month near islands claimed by both countries.
The captain was released Friday and has since returned to China, but the diplomatic back-and-forth since then indicates nationalistic sentiments stirred up by the incident are not dissipating.
"We will ask China to pay for damage incurred to coast guard vessels," Sengoku told reporters at a morning press conference, saying the request had been relayed to Beijing via diplomatic channels. "At this point, the ball is now in China's court."
The captain's Sept. 8 arrest following the collision near a chain of islands in the East China Sea called Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, has strained ties between China and Japan – the world's No. 2 and No. 3 economies – to their worst point in years.
Beijing exerted intense pressure on Tokyo to free the captain and had cut off ministerial-level dialogue with Tokyo and postponed talks on developing undersea natural gas fields between the nations.
Hopes the captain's release Friday would ease tensions were dashed when Beijing demanded an apology and compensation – a demand that Prime Minister Naoto Kan flatly rejected Sunday.
"I have no intention of accepting (the demand) at all," Kan said. "It is important for both sides to act with a broader point of view."
Japan's decision to free the captain – without officially closing the case – sparked criticism in the Japanese media and from opposition politicians that Tokyo had caved in to Chinese pressure.
The tensions have spilled over into other issues.
On Thursday, Beijing said it was investigating four Japanese suspected of entering a military zone without authorization and illegally filming military facilities.
Meanwhile, Japanese trading company officials said starting last Tuesday, China had halted exports to Japan of rare earth elements, which are essential for making high-tech products. China's Trade Ministry denied that Beijing had tightened curbs.