Japan protests after Chinese warship sails near disputed East China Sea islands

09 Jun, 2016 9:42 am

TOKYO – Japan summoned the Chinese ambassador early on Thursday to express concern after a Chinese navy ship sailed close to what Japan considers its territorial waters in the East China Sea for the first time, increasing tensions over the disputed area.

Japan said a Chinese frigate sailed within 24 miles (38 kms) of the contested territory, the islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China, shortly after midnight.

Japan’s Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki summoned the Chinese ambassador in Tokyo at around 2 a.m. (01:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday) to “express a serious concern,” the government said in a statement.

Japanese and Chinese coastguard vessels frequently face off around the islands as both sides press their claims. Until now neither has dispatched warships to nearby waters, because doing so would inflame tensions and remove a buffer against potential armed conflict.

“We are worried that this action raises tensions to a higher level,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a regular press briefing in Tokyo.

“Related ministries are working together to deal with this and we will work closely with the U.S.,” Suga said.

China’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday it was looking into the reports that one of its navy ships sailed close to the disputed islands, adding its navy had every right to operate in Chinese waters.

“Chinese naval ships sailing through waters our country has jurisdiction over is reasonable and legal. No other country has the right to make thoughtless remarks about this,” it said in a statement sent to Reuters. -Reuters

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