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Chinese ships in disputed waters: Japan coastguard

Published on Oct 25, 2012 7:50 AM

TOKYO (AP/AFP)- Chinese ships entered waters near a group of disputed islands for the first time in three weeks Thursday, prompting a strong protest from Japan, which says China's air force has also sharply increased its operations in the area.

Japan's Coast Guard said the four Chinese surveillance ships were spotted within a 12-nautical mile zone that Tokyo considers its territorial waters near one of the disputed islands in the East China Sea early Thursday morning.

The ships refused to leave, saying the area was Chinese territory, according to Atsushi Takahashi, a spokesman for the Coast Guard's headquarters in Okinawa, which has jurisdiction over the islands. He said it was the first time Chinese ships had entered the territorial waters since Oct. 3.

Separately, two fisheries patrol ships were spotted in so-called contiguous waters, which extend a further 12 nautical miles, of another island in the chain, coastguards said.

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