TOKYO, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Japan's coast guard earned China's thanks for rescuing a Chinese balloonist from the waters of the disputed Senkaku islands, claimed by both countries.
The 35-year-old balloonist, identified as a cook from China's Hebei province, landed in the waters of the East China Sea Wednesday after his hot air balloon missed the Japanese-controlled islets, which are the subject of a bitter territorial dispute between Japan and China, Kyodo News reported.
The man, who had taken off from China's Fujian province, had planned to land on the Senkakus' Uotsuri Island.
The Japanese coast guard on Okinawa Island said it dispatched two patrol boats and a helicopter after a request from Taiwanese authorities to search for a missing man.
The patrol found the man and his balloon in the sea about 13 miles south of Uotsuri Island.
Kyodo said the coast guard decided not to pursue criminal charges against the man for intruding into Japan's territorial waters as the exact location of where he landed was not known.
The man was later handed over to a Chinese patrol ship in the region, which expressed its thanks in a radio message to the Japanese coast guard, the news service said.