Japan lodges protest after China's ships sail into waters near disputed isles

A group of disputed islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
A group of disputed islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Tokyo protested to Beijing on Sunday (Aug 21) after Chinese coast guard ships sailed into territorial waters surrounding disputed islands in the East China Sea, Japan said.

Four Chinese vessels entered the waters surrounding islets, called the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China, around 10am local time, according to the Japan Coast Guard. They left the territorial waters within an hour, it said.

The director-general of the Japanese foreign ministry's Asian and Oceanian affairs bureau, Mr Kenji Kanasugi, issued a protest on Sunday to the Chinese embassy in Tokyo, saying that the ships' "incursion" violated Japan's sovereignty, the ministry said in a statement.

"Despite Japan's repeated strong protests, the Chinese side has continued to take unilateral actions that raise tensions on the ground, and that is absolutely unacceptable," the statement added.

The two countries are locked in a long-running dispute over the uninhabited islets.

Tokyo has lodged at least 32 protests through diplomatic channels since Aug 5 over what it says have been about 30 intrusions by Chinese vessels in the territorial waters.

China is also involved in maritime disputes in the South China Sea with countries including the Philippines, but a UN-backed tribunal has ruled that Beijing's claims were invalid.