Japan protests as Chinese frigate sails close to disputed islands

Japan protests as Chinese frigate sails close to disputed islands

Japan protests as Chinese frigate sails close to disputed islands

Japan has warned Beijing against taking any actions that will damage bilateral ties, after a Chinese military warship and a foreign submarine were seen near disputed islands in the East China Sea on Thursday.

Relations between China and Japan have shown signs of improvement in recent months after their leaders both gained fresh mandates and domestic support at the end of previous year.

The Senkakus - an uninhabited chain surrounded by resource-rich waters between Okinawa and Taiwan - are claimed by Japan, Taiwan and China, which refers to them as Diaoyu.

In 2004, the government ordered an SDF maritime security operation after a Chinese nuclear submarine intruded into Japanese waters around the Saki-shima island chain, southern Japan.

The submarine's presence was confirmed by a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force escort ship and a P-3C aircraft, the statement said.

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The officials say the submarine again entered Japan's contiguous zone on Thursday morning off Taisho Island of the Senkaku Islands.

"Senkaku is Japan's territory and territorial waters internationally and historically and Japan's claim about the contiguous zone is absolutely correct", Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters Friday morning. It then re-entered the contiguous zone around Taisho Island, which is part of the Senkakus, before leaving that afternoon.

Onodera made the statement during a visit to Hawaii Thursday.

China routinely rejects Japanese criticism of such patrols, saying its ships have every right to operate in what China calls its territorial waters.

China and Japan traded accusations on Thursday after a Chinese navy vessel was detected in waters near disputed islands in the East China Sea, adding fresh uncertainty as the two sides try to improve bilateral ties.

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Beijing's Ministry of National Defense gave a similar account, and voiced "strong discontent with Japanese efforts to sensationalize a legitimate action by the Chinese navy", according to state news outlet Xinhua. "China's decision to guard the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai territory is unshaken".

"The measures by the Japanese side will not change the established fact that the Diaoyu Islands belong to China, nor will it change China's resolution to safeguard its territory in the Diaoyu Islands", Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing on Thursday.

Though the Japanese Defense Ministry has not said the submarine was Chinese, the circumstances suggest that it was likely a PLAN vessel.

Thursday was the first time a Chinese military vessel had entered that area since June 2016.

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