Chinese government ships returned to waters off disputed Japanese-controlled islands yesterday, the coast guard said, a week after they last left and days after heated exchanges at the UN.
Four maritime surveillance ships entered the waters shortly after 12:30pm, where they remained for around six hours, ignoring demands from Japan’s coast guard to leave.
“Patrol ships from our agency have been telling them to sail outside of our territorial waters. There has not been any response [from the Chinese],” the agency said.
It was the first time in about a week that Chinese ships had entered the waters, following a lull in a diplomatic row over the sovereignty of the islands known as the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyu Archipelago (釣魚群島) in China.
Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said the government lodged an immediate protest with China over the latest case, telling reporters: “We want the Chinese side to exercise self-restraint.”
In Beijing, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) said China was “strongly unsatisfied” with moves by “Japanese right-wingers” to enter waters around the islands.
“If left unchecked, such provocative behavior could complicate the situation, and China is paying close attention,” an online statement said.
Official Chinese vessels repeatedly sailed into the archipelago’s waters until Monday last week, defying warnings from Japan’s well-equipped coast guard.
Last week Chinese and Japanese diplomats at the UN General Assembly in New York traded insults, with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) accusing Japan of theft.