TOKYO • Japan yesterday said it would respond firmly after Chinese government vessels intruded into what Tokyo con- siders its territorial waters near disputed islands in the East China Sea 14 times at the weekend, stoking bilateral tensions.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo would continue to urge Beijing not to escalate the East China Sea dispute, while also responding firmly and calmly.
Mr Suga told a news conference that a total of 14 Chinese government vessels had in recent days entered "contiguous waters", which can be policed for Customs and immigration violations, and intruded 14 times into what Japan considers its territorial waters.
Twelve Chinese vessels remained in the area early yesterday, he said. A Japanese government source, who asked not to be identified, said the Japan Coast Guard had stepped up patrols in the region at the weekend, but declined to give further details.
Chinese activity near the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, has heated up since last Friday, prompting repeated Japanese protests, including three on Sunday. Some 230 Chinese fishing vessels were also in the area last Saturday, Japan's Foreign Ministry said.
Separately, Japan's newly appointed defence minister yesterday ordered the nation's military to be ready to destroy any missiles fired by North Korea that threatened the country, local media reported. Ms Tomomi Inada issued the order, public broadcaster NHK said, without mentioning if there was any indication that Pyongyang was preparing to launch such a missile.
Ms Inada's appointment last Wednesday came on the same day North Korea, a major security headache for Japan, fired a ballistic missile that hit Japanese-controlled waters for the first time.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE