China coastguard ships in disputed waters: Japan

TOKYO (AFP) - Four Chinese coastguard ships on Wednesday entered contested waters around a group of islands controlled by Japan but claimed by both countries, Japanese coastguard officials said.

The four vessels sailed into the 12-nautical-mile band of territorial waters around 7.30am (6.30am Singapore time), the coastguard said.

It is the latest in a series of incursions by Chinese government ships in recent months around the Senkaku islands. Beijing also claims the islands, which it calls the Diaoyus.

Japan on Tuesday unveiled its biggest warship since World War II, a helicopter carrier aimed at playing a major role in disaster and rescue missions, as well as defending sea lanes and Japanese territory.

The dispute over the island chain in the East China Sea has been cited as a potential flashpoint that could even lead to armed conflict between the Asian giants.