Chinese ships advance in waters near Diaoyus defying Japan’s white paper warning
Japan notes peculiar timing of the ships' approach, coming after Tokyo published defence paper and during naval drills
Chinese coastguard ships sailed into waters off Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea on Wednesday, officials said, after Tokyo's annual defence paper warned of China's "dangerous acts" near the disputed archipelago.
Three Chinese vessels sailed into territorial waters that extend 12 nautical miles around one of the Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus, the Japanese coastguard said.
The ships entered the area around 10am local time and left about two hours later, it said.
Japan and China's coastguard, despite current tensions, are taking part in three-day joint drills, which started on Tuesday, alongside the United States and Russia.
The peculiar timing saw coastguard members who sometimes play cat and mouse at sea taking part in diving drills, among other exercises.
Japan's defence report, published on Tuesday, said frequent appearances by Chinese ships in the area could lead to "unintended consequences", as fears grow over a potential military clash between the Asian powers.
Tokyo nationalised some of the islands nearly two years ago, setting off a diplomatic row with Beijing, although the two countries still occasionally work together on exercises such as the coastguard drills.
Chinese vessels and aircraft have regularly approached the islands, with Japan's coastguard in hot pursuit.
China responded to Tuesday's defence paper by saying Japan was "deliberately creating a "Chinese threat as an excuse to adjust its military policy".
The paper may dent Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's bid to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a regional meeting in Beijing in November.
Abe and Xi, both strong nationalists, have not held a bilateral summit since they both came to power more than 18 months ago.