Japan lodged a protest with China yesterday after two Chinese ships briefly entered what it regards as its territorial waters near the East China Sea islets, the latest flare-up in a long-running dispute.
The Japan coast guard said two fisheries patrol boats in the morning intruded into a 12 nautical mile zone around the islands that Japan considers its territorial waters.
Tokyo saw its ties with Beijing deteriorate sharply last year following its arrest of a Chinese skipper whose trawler collided with Japanese patrol boats near the isles, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in Taiwan and China, which also claim them.
The isles are located near potentially rich maritime gas reserves.
“[Japanese] Vice Foreign Minister [Kenichiro] Sasae summoned the Chinese ambassador and said the Senkaku islands are Japan’s integral territory historically and in terms of international law,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.
“He protested firmly and demanded they prevent a recurrence,” he told a news conference.
There was no comment from China, but Japan’s coast guard quoted the Chinese side as saying they were in Chinese waters.
The two Chinese boats entered the disputed waters near the isles yesterday morning, and stayed there for a short time, Edano said.
“Chinese fishing patrol ships approached Senkaku 12 times since the collision incident last year. What separates this from the previous 11 times is that they actually entered [Japanese] territorial waters,” Edano said.
The coast guard said one of its patrol ships sighted the Chinese boats about 6:15am yesterday, about 30km off one of the islands.
The coast guard said when the patrol ship issued a warning, one of the boats radioed back: “Diaoyutais and surrounding islands are an integral part of China’s territory.”