Japan's defence minister vowed yesterday to defend the country's territory as three Chinese government ships entered disputed waters off Tokyo-controlled islands in the East China Sea, the first such incident this year.
The Chinese coastguard vessels sailed into the 12-nautical-mile territorial waters at about 8.30am off one of the Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus, Japan's coastguard said. They left less than two hours later.
"We can never overlook repeated incursions into territorial waters," Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said.
"We need to make diplomatic efforts on one hand. We also want to firmly defend our country's territorial sea and land with the Self-Defence Forces co-operating with the Coast Guard."
Chinese state-owned ships and aircraft have approached the disputed islands on and off to demonstrate Beijing's territorial claims, especially after Japan nationalised some of the islands in September 2012.
It was the first time Chinese ships had been spotted since December 29 when three coastguard ships entered the zone and stayed for about three hours.