Three Chinese ships in disputed island waters: Japan

TOKYO (AFP) - Three Chinese government ships were in waters around islands at the centre of a dispute with Tokyo on Wednesday, a day after Japan's premier suggested a summit could help mend frayed ties.

Japan's coastguard said the maritime surveillance boats entered waters around a chain of Tokyo-controlled islands known as the Senkakus in Japan, which Beijing calls the Diaoyus, at around noon.

China has repeatedly sent ships to the area since Japan nationalised some of the chain in September, a move that triggered a diplomatic dispute and huge anti-Japan demonstrations across China.

Beijing has also sent air patrols to the archipelago in the East China Sea, and recently both Beijing and Tokyo have scrambled fighter jets, though there have been no clashes.

On Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggested a summit with China would improve a relationship that has been badly troubled for months.

"A high-level meeting should be held because there is a problem. If necessary, there might be a need to build the... relationship again, starting with a summit meeting," he told a television show.