China defended the actions of two patrol boats near disputed Japanese-administered islands in the East China Sea, state media reported late yesterday, saying the vessels were protecting Chinese fishermen.
Earlier, the Japan Coast Guard said two Chinese fisheries patrol boats had intruded into a 12 nautical mile (22km) zone around the islands Japan considers its territorial waters.
It prompted Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Kenichiro Sasae to summon Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua (程永華) in protest at the incident, Tokyo’s top government spokesman said.
However, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ma Zhaoxu (馬朝旭) said the boats were on a routine patrol and reiterated Beijing’s claim over the islands — called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyutai (釣魚台) in Chinese — and which are also claimed by Taiwan.
“Our law enforcement vessels patrolled the waters to maintain normal order for our fishing vessels. China has made its stance regarding the issue clear to the Japanese side,” Ma was quoted as saying in a report by Xinhua. “China has indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu[tai] Islands and its adjacent islets, which have been an integral part of Chinese territory since ancient times.”
His comments came after a senior Japanese official said there was “no question” the islands belong to his nation.
“The Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japanese territory, historically and under international law,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.