The Japanese government has formally protested the entry of an armed Chinese government ship and two other vessels into waters that it claims as its own.
While China and Japan frequently lock horns over ownership of the uninhabited East China Sea islands, known by China as the Diaoyu Islands and as the Senkaku Islands by the Japanese, this marks the first time an armed Chinese Coast Guard vessel has entered what Japan considers its own territorial waters.
The vessels were first spotted by Japanese authorities on Tuseday. “The ship is seen carrying four pieces of equipment, two at the front and another set of two at the rear, which each seem to have something similar to a cannon,” a Coast Guard spokeswoman said at the time.
According to a statement emailed to Bloomberg, three vessels approached waters north of Kuba Island from around 8:19 a.m. local time, entering Japanese territorial waters at 9:30 a.m. and leaving just over an hour later.
Sovereignty over the islands is a highly emotive issue in China, with thousands of furious protesters taking to the street in 2012 following the Japan’s decision to nationalize the islets.
The Japanese government protested to the Chinese embassy in Tokyo and to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, according to the foreign affairs ministry official. The entry of the three ships on Saturday was the 139th time that Chinese government vessels have entered Japan’s waters since September 2012, the official said.
In recent years China has become increasingly assertive regarding its maritime territorial claims, with this incident likely the latest calculated move in its attempt to undermine the status quo and challenge Japan’s administration of the region.
[Image via Japan Coast Guard]