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China frees Japanese boat after boat owner pays up

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BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese court on Thursday released a seized Japanese freight ship after owner Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. paid more than $28 million involving a dispute dating back to the wartime in the 1930s, the Shanghai Maritime Court said.

In a statement, the court said it freed Mitsui's Baosteel Emotion after the Japanese shipping firm paid the debt to the Chinese side as well as court costs.

The Saturday seizure of the container boat at a Chinese port, as ordered by the court, came after Mitsui failed to pay the compensation as ruled in an earlier lawsuit in which Mitsui was sued for losing two leased Chinese ships in the 1930s, the court said.

The seizure and release of the boat came at a time when the relations between Beijing and Tokyo are tense over sovereignty claims over a chain of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry says court ruling was for a business dispute and not about compensation from war.

"It is a very regular business contract dispute," ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday.

The Shanghai court said it levied the monetary judgment against Mitsui based on the lease costs, operating loss and damage to the two Chinese vessels, which sank while in the hands of Mitsui's predecessor Daido Kaiun.

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