Japan rescues ditched Chinese balloonist

By Jiang Yabin Source:Global Times Published: 2014-1-3 0:43:03

China on Thursday confirmed that a Chinese man, who attempted to fly to the disputed Diaoyu Islands in a hot-air balloon but crash-landed into the sea, has been transferred to Chinese rescuers after he was rescued by the Japanese.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said during a briefing that the Chinese coast guard vessel patrolling in the waters of the Diaoyu Islands learned Wednesday that a Chinese balloonist had ditched in the sea. The vessel then came to the scene immediately for help and the rescued person is in good condition.

The man, identified as Xu Shuaijun, 35, took off from Fuqing, East China's Fujian Province Wednesday morning, Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun reported.

Xu crash-landed after hitting turbulence and a Japanese coast guard helicopter picked him up 22 kilometers south of his goal after receiving a request for aid via authorities in Taiwan, the report said.

Qin did not mention the Japanese coast guard and made no further comments on the balloonist's landing attempt.

Xu was identified as the first man who flew across the Bohai Bay in Northeast China in a hot-air balloon in 2012.

"I have returned safe. Thank you for your concerns," Xu wrote on his Sina Weibo account on Thursday in Fuqing.

Xu's Weibo entry had attracted nearly 100 comments as of late Thursday, with most applauding his patriotism, and some saying he should have been more cautious.

Xu released his plan in September on Weibo and described it as the "hardest flight ever" in a hot-air balloon. He said he had to fly for 359 kilometers and endure -40 C temperatures and insufficient oxygen.

"Be a Chinese man with attitude by flying to the Diaoyu Islands," he wrote after describing the difficulties.

Japan has no right to charge Xu because there is no evidence showing that he broke into Japanese territory, Su Jingxiang, deputy director with the Center for Globalization Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.

"Xu's act was brave, but I don't suggest Chinese citizens go there because it may cause trouble for Sino-Japanese relations," Su said.

Tensions between China and Japan have been intensified since Japan's "nationalization" of the Diaoyu Islands in September 2012, and China's establishment of the Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea in November.

Activists from both sides have made several attempts to land on the islands. In August 2012, 14 Chinese activists arrived at the Diaoyu Islands on a Hong Kong vessel and were illegally arrested by the Japanese side and later released. A group of Japanese activists made a similar trip later.

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