Japan protests after Chinese vessels sail near disputed islets

This hand out picture released by the Japan Coast Guard on August 6 shows the China coast guard ship 35104 sailing near the waters of disputed East China Sea islands.
This hand out picture released by the Japan Coast Guard on August 6 shows the China coast guard ship 35104 sailing near the waters of disputed East China Sea islands. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO • Japan issued a new protest to Beijing yesterday after Chinese Coast Guard ships and about 230 fishing vessels sailed close to what Tokyo considers its territorial waters around disputed islets in the East China Sea, Japan's Foreign Ministry said.

But China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying rejected the accusation and said Beijing has "indisputable rights" over the islets and nearby waters.

The latest incident comes amid heightened tensions in Asia, less than a month after an arbitration tribunal in The Hague invalidated China's claims in the disputed South China Sea, in a case brought by the Philippines. China has refused to recognise the ruling.

Japan has called on China to adhere to the verdict, which it said was binding, prompting warnings from Beijing not to interfere.

Three of the six Chinese Coast Guard ships that were in the so-called contiguous waters yesterday appeared to be armed, Japan's Coast Guard said.

On Friday, a Japanese official said Chinese Coast Guard ships and fishing vessels entered what Tokyo considers its territorial waters around the islets. Beijing claims the uninhabited, Tokyo-controlled East China Sea islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, and occasionally sends its coast guard vessels near them.

A senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official yesterday issued a protest to a Chinese Embassy official in Tokyo calling on the coast guard ships to leave the area and condemning the action as a unilateral escalation of tensions, the ministry said.

Japanese Vice-Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama on Friday summoned China's Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua to lodge a strong protest, the ministry said.

China on Friday accused Japan's new defence minister, Ms Tomomi Inada, of misrepresenting history after she declined to say whether Japanese troops massacred civilians in China during World War II.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 07, 2016, with the headline 'Japan protests after Chinese vessels sail near disputed islets'. Print Edition | Subscribe