The Straits Times
Published on Oct 17, 2012

Chinese warships cross waters near Japan island


TOKYO (AP) - Japan and China are trading a new round of criticism after Japanese military aircraft spotted seven Chinese warships in waters off a southern island not far from a chain of isles at the center of a heated territory dispute. China said the ships were on a routine training mission.

The Chinese ships were sighted on Tuesday about 49 km from the island of Yonaguni, in Japan's Okinawa prefecture, according to Japan's Defense Ministry. They were about 200 km from a chain of small islands that have sparked a heated dispute between Japan and China.

The ships were believed to be returning to China after training in the Pacific.

Japan's Defense Ministry on Wednesday said the ships were not headed for the disputed islands, but said it was the first time the Chinese navy has been spotted using the narrow sea passage near Yonaguni.