Standoff in the East China Sea

The arrest of a Chinese fisherman by the Japan Coast Guard has resparked a longstanding territorial dispute. But what’s in the water these two nations want so badly?

A torn Japanese flag rests atop a pile of dead fish during a Chinese protest in front of the Japan Exchange Association on Sept. 14. The diplomatic dispute between Tokyo and Beijing over an archipelago — known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, Diaoyu in China, and which is also claimed by Taiwan — has escalated in recent weeks. And it’s not just the rich fishing grounds they’re fighting over: The waters are believed to contain significant oil and gas deposits.

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Chinese fishing boats are berthed and tied down in the coastal town of Jinjiang, southeast China’s Fujian province on Sept. 19. Zhan Qixiong, the 41-year-old Chinese trawler captain whose arrest by Japanese authorities has triggered an international tussle over disputed waters in the East China Sea, set sail from this port. Zhan was arrested by the Japan Coast Guard on suspicion of obstructing officers on duty, a charge that carries a maximum three-year prison sentence. On Sept. 9, China called the seizure of Zhan’s trawler "absurd," warning it could adversely affect ties between the two nations.

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Photographers try to take pictures of arrested demonstrators being taken away in a bus near the Japanese consulate in Shanghai on Sept. 18. The protest followed a deepening row between Beijing and Tokyo over a Chinese trawler, whose captain is being held in Japan after his boat was seized in disputed waters.


A fishing boat carrying activists from Hong Kong — en route to the disputed island chain in the East China Sea — sails through Victoria Harbor on Sept. 22.


A policeman attempts to break up a crowd of anti-Japanese protesters as they march through the Beijing’s embassy district on Sept. 18.


Chinese security personnel patrol the port of Jinjiang, in southeast China’s Fujian province on Sept. 19.

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A Taiwanese protest ship, escorted by two coastguard vessels, sets sail from the fishing port of Yeiliu for the East China Sea on Sept. 13.


A small group of anti-Japanese activists from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau demonstrate in Yeiliu, a fishing port in northern Taiwan on Sept. 13.


Hong Kong activists set sail for the East China Sea, departing from Cheung Chau Island near Hong Kong on Sept. 22.


Chinese fishing boats along the Jinjiang coast at low tide on Sept. 9.

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