Japan protests as China’s PLA Navy sails near disputed Diaoyu Islands in East China Sea
Tokyo summons Chinese envoy after navy patrols near to territorial waters
China hit back after Japan summoned its top envoy yesterday to express concern over the sailing of a PLA Navy ship close to what Tokyo considers its territorial waters in the East China Sea.
A People’s Liberation Army vessel entered waters surrounding the Tokyo-administered isles, called the Diaoyu Islands by China and the Senkakus in Japan, at 12.50am and left at 3.10am, the Japanese foreign ministry said.
“The fact that [China] sent a naval ship to the contiguous waters of our Senkaku Islands for the first time is an act that unilaterally increases tension and our nation is gravely concerned,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
Contiguous waters are a 12-nautical-mile band that extend beyond territorial waters. Under international rules, they are not the preserve of any single country, although the resident power has certain limited rights.
The Chinese defence ministry said the Diaoyu Islands were China’s “inherent territory”, and the PLA naval vessels sailing in the waters near them were “under China’s jurisdiction”.
“No other country has the right to make irresponsible remarks,” the ministry said on its website.
The PLA naval ship was a 3,963-tonne Jiangkai class frigate, and was spotted by Japan’s guided-missile destroyer Setogiri, the Japanese defence ministry said.
The ministry said three Russian military vessels were also seen in the waters around the disputed islands three hours before the PLA ships.
The Chinese and Russian vessels left at about the same time, it said.
China and Russia are to hold their annual Joint Sea-2016 drill in the near future, with China being the host. Reports have claimed the drills will take place in the Far East.
Relations between Japan and China deteriorated in 2012 when Tokyo “nationalised” some of the islets. One year later, the PLA Navy and the Russian Pacific Fleet began their first “Joint Sea” drills in the Sea of Japan’s Peter the Great Gulf.
Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said tensions in the East China Sea would “definitely be escalated” if China and Russia conducted their joint naval drills in waters close to the Diaoyus.
However, Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said Chinese and Russian warships had merely held a “warm-up patrol”.
“Neither the Chinese nor Russian warships entered within 12 nautical miles of the Diaoyus, the bottom line that Beijing and Tokyo have agreed to prevent provoking each other. But Japan always exaggerates Chinese vessels’ every move near the Diaoyu waters,” he said.