China relentlessly harries Japan in island dispute
BEIJING (AP) - Chinese patrol boats have harried the Japanese Coast Guard many times a week for more than a month in an unusually relentless response to their latest maritime spat.
Four Chinese craft typically push to within hailing distance of Japan's ships. They flash illuminated signs in Japanese to press Beijing's argument that it has ancient claims to a set of tiny East China Sea islands now controlled by Tokyo. China says its craft have tried to chase the Japanese away at least once, although Japan denies any of its ships fled.
The huge uptick in incidents has brought the two sides into dangerously close proximity, reflecting a campaign by Beijing to wear down Japanese resolve with low-level, non-military manoeuvres but also boosting the risk of a clash.
Although China wields a formidable arsenal, it has yet to deploy military assets in such encounters. Instead, Beijing has dispatched ships from government maritime agencies - only one of which is armed - to keep a lid on gunfire. Those agencies are now receiving added attention, with new ships on order and a national call going out for recruits.