TERRITORIAL DISPUTE
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Diaoyu Islands

Japan lodges protest over Chinese patrol vessels near Diaoyu Islands

Complaint to embassy in Tokyo after coastguard reports three vessels entered disputed waters

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 4:34am

Japan lodged an official protest yesterday after three Chinese maritime surveillance vessels entered disputed waters in the East China Sea.

Japan's coastguard said the three vessels entered waters around the disputed Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan.

It was the first time Chinese vessels had sailed within 12 nautical miles of the disputed islands since Tokyo alleged on February 5 that Chinese frigates had directed fire-control radar at a Japanese destroyer and a military helicopter last month.

The incident put more strain on already tense bilateral ties. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said yesterday his ministry lodged a protest with the Chinese embassy in Tokyo.

"The incident cannot be accepted in any way," he said.

But China's State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said in a statement on its website the vessels were merely continuing a regular patrol. State media have given the operation extensive coverage, with China Central Television running live reports.

Sino-Japanese ties have deteriorated since September, when the Japanese government announced it was buying three of the five uninhabited islands. Tensions escalated after the radar lock-on allegations.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the incidents were "provocative" and "dangerous", but Beijing said the allegations were fabricated to spread the "China threat theory".

The Chinese military also stepped up training over the Lunar New Year holiday.

A People's Liberation Army Navy flotilla completed the year's first open-sea training exercise in the western Pacific Ocean and returned to Qingdao yesterday.

During the 18-day training exercise, the flotilla patrolled the South China Sea and conducted a joint anti-submarine exercise.

It also sailed through the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, the Miyako Strait, the Bashi Channel and waters off Taiwan's east coast.

The flotilla was followed by unidentified foreign aircraft and warships for much of the time, Xinhua reported.

It said 26 training drills were conducted, with sailors on board saying they were willing to sacrifice their holidays to protect the nation's sovereignty.