Japan names islets in disputed territory

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan on Friday named almost 160 uninhabited islets at the edge of its territorial waters, including a group that is part of an archipelago also claimed by China.

The apparent bid to stake Tokyo's claim to the tiny territory may inflame tensions with Beijing which has been at loggerheads with Japan over the chain of islands in the East China Sea.

The group, believed to harbour vast natural resources below its seabed, is called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Five of the newly named outcroppings are part of the same island grouping.

Their bland monikers - including Higashi Kojima (East Small Island) and Seihokusei Kojima (West Northwest Small Island) - will appear on maps but the move will not change Japan's maritime borders.

Tokyo and Beijing's bitter and longstanding battle over ownership of the East China Sea chain was exacerbated when Japan nationalised some of the archipelago nearly two years ago.

Since then, the waters have seen increasingly dangerous standoffs in the sea and air around the contested territory.

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