Japan yesterday summoned Chinese diplomats to protest after six China Coast Guard vessels approached disputed East China Sea islands accompanying a fleet of hundreds of Chinese fishing boats.
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it filed the protest after the Japan Coast Guard spotted the vessels along with a fleet of 230 Chinese fishing boats swarming around the Japanese-controlled Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — known as the Senkakus in Japan — which are also claimed by Taiwan and China.
Japan is demanding that the ships leave the area. Three of the Chinese coast guard vessels were armed with what appeared to be gun batteries, the ministry said.
The Chinese fleet has not intruded in Japanese territorial waters so far, it added.
China’s increasingly assertive maritime activities in the East and South China seas have raised concerns and tensions in the region.
Japan has joined the US, the Philippines and others in urging China to abide by international law after a UN arbitration panel ruled in favor of the Philippines in its maritime dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea.
China said it does not recognize the July 12 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hauge, the Netherlands.
China’s coast guard vessels routinely sail around the islands, usually in pairs or up to four. Until now, only one of the vessels was armed.
Yesterday’s fleet size and equipment showed “an escalation of the situation that could heighten tensions in the waters,” the ministry said, without elaborating on what might have caused the increase.
On Friday, Japan also protested after two Chinese coast guard ships entered the Japanese-claimed waters around the islands.
There was no immediate comment from Beijing.
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