China Coast Guard vessels have been passing by Japanese-claimed waters for weeks in the East China Sea and China’s warships have been edging near Japan’s southwestern islands over the past few days, Japanese officials said.
A fleet of four China Coast Guard vessels on Thursday passed just outside of the territorial waters of Japan-controlled islands, which Beijing and Taiwan also claim, for the 49th day in a row, the Japan Coast Guard said.
It said it warned China’s vessels against further approaching the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台群島) — known as the Senkakus in Japan.
The China Coast Guard on Tuesday acknowledged that it was patrolling waters off the Diaoyutais.
China routinely sends coast guard vessels and planes into waters and airspace surrounding the islands to harass Japanese vessels in the area and force Japan to scramble jets in response.
Japan Coast Guard Commandant Shohei Ishii last month said that Chinese activity in infiltrating Japanese territorial waters is in breach of international law, and that the “situation is extremely serious and is unpredictable.”
Tokyo in recent years has significantly reinforced defense of southwestern Japan, including Okinawa and its outer islands that are considered strategically key to Japanese defense in the face of China’s growing assertiveness and tension around Taiwan.
The Japanese Ministry of Defense this week said that it had repeatedly spotted Chinese warships off the coast of Okinawa since last week.
On Thursday last week, a Chinese guided missile destroyer and frigate crossed the waters between Okinawa and the Miyako islands as they moved south, prompting Japan to deploy a warship and a reconnaissance aircraft.
On Saturday, a reconnaissance ship passed the area to the north. Then, on Sunday, the Chinese reconnaissance ship showed up in the waters again, the ministry said.
On Monday, the guided missile destroyer and the frigate were spotted crossing the waters between Okinawa and Miyako, the ministry said.
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