Aug 09, 2013

    Japan protests against lingering China ships

    TOKYO summoned Beijing's envoy yesterday after Chinese government ships entered Japanese territorial waters near islands at the centre of a bitter territorial row between the Asian giants.

    The Chinese vessels entered the area on Wednesday and were still there yesterday morning, Japan's Foreign Ministry said, marking the longest incursion since the long-simmering dispute erupted again last year.

    Tokyo issued a protest to acting ambassador Han Zhiqiang over the latest incident, a Japanese foreign-ministry spokesman said.

    "The Chinese side argued its... position and said it could not accept Japan's protest," the spokesman said after the Chinese diplomat met officials in Tokyo.

    The incursion was the latest in a series by Chinese government ships in recent months around the Senkaku islands, a potential flashpoint that some observers said could even lead to armed conflict between the two nations.

    Beijing also claims the chain, which it calls the Diaoyus. The East China Sea archipelago is located in rich fishing grounds and is believed to harbour vast natural resources below its seabed.

    A group of four Chinese ships entered the waters near the islands around 7.30am on Wednesday, according to the Japan Coast Guard.

    The ships were still in the area at 9am yesterday. One of the four vessels left the area on Wednesday, but it was soon replaced by another government ship.

    The longest stay by Chinese vessels was about 14 hours in February, Japan's coast guard said.

    The latest incident marks the longest stay since last year, according to a coast-guard official.

    The long-running dispute flared after Japan nationalised some of the disputed islands in September last year, setting off a diplomatic row and riots across China.