Parts of the disputed Senkaku Islands, as known in Japan, or Diaoyu, as known in China (file photo)
China has sent six ships into the waters surrounding the East China Sea’s disputed chain of islands claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing.
The Japanese coast guard said two ships entered waters near the islands, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, at 6:18 a.m. local time on Friday (2118 GMT Thursday). The ships were followed by four other vessels that entered the waters at 7:00 a.m. (2200 GMT).
However, Japanese officials said two of the Chinese ships left the area after the coast guard issued a warning for the vessels to leave Japan’s “territorial waters.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the ships entered the waters “to start patrol and law enforcement.”
“These law enforcement and patrol activities are designed to demonstrate China’s jurisdiction over the islands and safeguard its maritime interests.”
Japan and China have long been competing over the sovereignty of the uninhabited islands, which are located near a crucial shipping lane and would give the owner exclusive oil, mineral and fishing rights in the surrounding waters.
On September 11, Tokyo signed a deal to buy three of the islands from their private Japanese owner in line with plans to nationalize the archipelago.
Hundreds of Chinese people staged a demonstration outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing on Thursday, protesting against the move. They sang China’s national anthem and chanted anti-Tokyo slogans.
China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said on September 12 that Beijing would “never yield an inch” over the disputed territories.