China insists Indonesia free fishermen

June 26, 2009 at 12:34 AM

BEIJING, June 26 (UPI) -- China has demanded Indonesia immediately release Chinese fishermen allegedly detained a week ago while they were in China's traditional fishing grounds.

China claims 75 of its fishermen and their eight boats from the Guangxi Zhuang region were detained by Indonesia June 20 while they were in their fishing grounds off the Nansha islands in the South China Sea.

The Jakarta Post, quoting Antara news agency, reported the fishermen were arrested while operating in Indonesia's Exclusive Economic Zone in the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Thursday his ministry and the Chinese Embassy in Indonesia have lodged urgent representations for the fishermen's release, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

"China is strongly dissatisfied with Indonesia for having detained Chinese fishing boats, and it demands that the Indonesian government immediately release the fishermen and boats," Qin said, adding Chinese embassy officials would visit the detained men.

Calling China and Indonesia "strategic partners," Qin said, "The two countries should settle the problem as soon as possible in the spirit of friendly consultation and maintaining the overall situation of bilateral relations."

The Jakarta Post quoted the head of the ocean resources monitoring agency in the Indonesia town of Pontianak as saying, "Legally, any ships may cross the zone, but they are not allowed to catch fish in the waters."

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