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China's Wen Threatens To Step Up Japan Dispute

China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says his country will take "further actions" if Japan does not immediately and unconditionally release a ship captain at the center of a growing dispute between the two Asian powers.

"The Japanese side has paid no heed to China's numerous serious representations, and so China cannot but take necessary countermeasures," he said, in comments carried on the Foreign Ministry's website.

"If Japan acts wilfully despite advice to the contrary, China will take further actions, and Japan must accept full responsibility for all the severe consequences," he added.

Wen's comments are the first by a top Chinese leader on the issue that has led Beijing to suspend ministerial-level contacts with Tokyo.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshito Sengoku, asked to comment on Wen's remarks, said: "It would be good to have high-level talks as soon as possible, on issues including broad, strategic matters."

The Chinese fishing captain's boat collided with Japanese patrol vessels two weeks ago near islands in the East China Sea claimed by both nations.

compiled from agency reports