Japan protested yesterday alleged surveillance activities by a Chinese vessel near disputed islands in a fresh dispute that comes despite efforts by the two countries to repair ties.
Japan said it spotted a Chinese ship early on Sunday that was apparently carrying out research in what Tokyo considers its waters in the East China Sea.
"It was inappropriate to act in our exclusive economic zone without any notification," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki.
"I strongly hope that such things will never happen again," he told a news conference.
Japan issued a protest late on Sunday to the Chinese embassy in Tokyo, which said it would check the details of the incident, officials said.
The Japan Coast Guard said it spotted the vessel surveying an area some 30km west of Uotsuri Island on Sunday and that it left after verbal warnings from a Japanese patrol boat.
The island is part of an uninhabited set of islets, known as the Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, that are disputed among Japan, China and Taiwan.
Japan declared the islands part of its territory in 1895 when it took over Taiwan. After World War II, the US used the islets for military drills before handing them to Japan in 1972 along with Okinawa.
China and Taiwan renewed their claims to the area after oil deposits were confirmed nearby in the 1970s.
But Japan and China, two of the world's biggest energy importers, have in recent months tried to ease tensions over political and economic disputes.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited China shortly after taking office in September.
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