Days after Chinese authorities seized their vessel over failure to respond to a compensation order by the local court, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines paid ¥4 billion yen ($39 million) for the vessel to be returned. This is just the latest in a long story of tensions between Japan and China over historical and territorial issues.
The Shanghai Maritime Court seized the container ship Baosteel Emotion, which was carrying iron ore, on Saturday. The ship was at the Majishan Port in Zheijang Province when authorities said it would take the ship for the company’s failure to honor a “commercial contract dispute.” The court was referring to a 2007 lawsuit that ordered Mitsui to pay $26 million for the loss of two ships rented in the 1930s. The company’s appeal for a retrial was denied in 2010 and has since been trying to negotiate the settlement amounting to ¥2.9 billion then. Left with no choice, and with their vessel embargoed, Mitsui decided to pay the amount and settle.
Upon hearing of the seizure, Japan opposed the move by the maritime court and called out China for its violation of the 1972 joint communiqué where China agreed to renounce all claims for wartime reparation. China countered the accusations, saying the matter is a simple commercial contract dispute and had nothing to do with the relations between their countries. They were referring to the forced labor case brought against Mitsui by Chinese citizens who were coerced into working for the company during World War II.
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