BEIJING • Chinese coast guard vessels sailed near disputed islands claimed by Japan and China in the East China Sea yesterday, marking the second such incident in less than a week.
The four ships entered the waters surrounding the island chain, controlled by Tokyo and known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, at around 10am local time and were moving in a south-west direction, according to the Japanese coast guard.
An online statement from China's State Oceanic Administration said only that the four Chinese coast guard vessels were "patrolling in Chinese waters off the Diaoyu Islands".
Japan's coast guard said it was the second time since last Thursday that four Chinese ships had entered its waters. Japan has routinely complained that China is escalating regional tensions by regularly sending ships to the island chain despite repeated protests from Tokyo.
The two countries have been locked in a long-running dispute over the islands, which are believed to harbour vast natural resources below their seabed, with China claiming them as its own.
Beijing is also involved in maritime disputes in the South China Sea. It asserts sovereignty over most of the area despite rival partial claims by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
An international arbitration tribunal in July last year ruled that Beijing's claims were invalid. The US Navy regularly conducts "freedom of navigation" operations in the South China Sea to challenge China's claims, angering Beijing.