Tokyo summoned Beijing’s envoy yesterday after Chinese government ships entered Japanese territorial waters near islands at the center of a bitter row between the Asian giants.
The Chinese vessels entered the area early on Wednesday and left at about noon yesterday, the Japanese coastguard said, the longest incursion since the dispute erupted again last year.
Tokyo issued a protest to acting Chinese ambassador Han Zhiqiang (韓志強) over the latest incident, a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
“The Chinese side argued its ... position and said it could not accept Japan’s protest,” he said.
The incursion was the latest in a series by Chinese government ships in recent months around the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), known in Japan as the Senkakus and also claimed by Taiwan.
The East China Sea archipelago is located in rich fishing grounds and is believed to harbor vast natural resources below its seabed.
A group of four Chinese ships entered Japanese waters near the islands at about 7:30am on Wednesday, according to the Japan Coast Guard.
One of the four vessels left the area on Wednesday evening, but it was soon replaced by another government ship. The group left the area at about noon yesterday, the coast guard said.
The longest previous stay by Chinese vessels was about 14 hours in February, it added.
“The latest incident marks the longest stay” since last year, a coast guard official said.
The long-running dispute flared again after Japan nationalized some of the disputed chain in September last year, setting off a diplomatic row and sparking riots across China.
A Chinese boycott of Japanese brands quickly followed, weighing on exports to the key market.
The territorial tensions and maritime skirmishes have all but frozen relations.
A survey yesterday found that Chinese and Japanese hold the least favorable views of each others’ countries for almost a decade. A total of 92.8 percent of Japanese have a bad or relatively bad impression of China, while 90.1 percent of Chinese hold similar feelings toward Japan, the poll by the China Daily and Japanese think tank Genron NPO showed.