A Chinese vessel suspected of illegally fishing fled in Japan's exclusive economic zone off Kagoshima Prefecture in November while Japanese inspectors were aboard conducting an on-site inspection.

The Fisheries Agency's Shirahagi Maru patrol boat spotted the Chinese vessel on Nov. 5 slightly on Japan's side of the waters where both countries' vessels can operate based on the Japan-China fisheries pact, it said Dec. 27.

Suspecting the Chinese boat of fishing illegally using a trawler net, 12 inspectors boarded the vessel. However, the ship continued to sail for about 12 hours, ignoring orders to stop.

The patrol boat and a Japan Coast Guard vessel sailed nearby during the incident, in which no injuries were reported. Japan has since issued a complaint to China through diplomatic channels, calling it a malicious case, according to the agency.

The inspectors could have left the Chinese vessel, as the two Japanese vessels were running nearby, but stayed on board to conduct the inspection, returning to the patrol ship in the evening, the agency said.

Speaking at a news conference on Dec. 27, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, “It is not true that a Chinese boat crossed the boundary (of the Japan-China fisheries pact).”