Japan’s defense minister vowed yesterday to defend the country’s territory as three Chinese government ships entered disputed waters off Tokyo-controlled islands in the East China Sea, the first such incident this year.
The Chinese coast guard vessels sailed into the 12 nautical miles of (22km) territorial waters at about 8:30am off one of the Senkaku Islands, [which Taiwan claims as the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台列嶼); they are also claimed by China], Japan’s coast guard said.
They left less than two hours later.
“We can never overlook repeated incursions into territorial waters,” Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera told reporters.
“We need to make diplomatic efforts on one hand. We also want to firmly defend our country’s territorial sea and land with the Self-Defense Forces cooperating with the coast guard,” he added.
Chinese state-owned ships and aircraft have approached the Senkakus on and off to demonstrate Beijing’s territorial claims, especially after Japan nationalized three of the islands in September 2012.
It was the first time Chinese ships had been spotted since Dec. 29, when three Chinese coast guard ships entered the zone and stayed for about three hours, the Japan Coast Guard said.
Japanese coast guard patrol boats have tried to chase Chinese vessels away, fueling tensions which some fear could spiral out of control into a regional armed clash.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed no compromise on the sovereignty of the islands and recently announced a boost in military spending to beef-up the nation’s defense.