Japan issued a protest after four Chinese patrol boats entered East China Sea waters near islands at the center of a territorial dispute that has worsened ties between Asia’s two biggest economies.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura confirmed that the vessels entered waters administered by Japan this morning. Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai called China’s ambassador to Japan to protest and demand that the boats leave, he said.
“It is truly regrettable that Chinese vessels make these incursions,” Fujimura said, adding that Japan will continue to patrol the area “vigorously.”
Kawai met Chinese diplomats met last week in Shanghai in an attempt to improve ties damaged by rival claims to the islands, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. The spat over the islands led to protests across China that strained the two nations’ $340 billion trade relationship.
“Chinese patrol boats conducted a routine cruise in China’s own territorial waters to protect its sovereignty,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a briefing in Beijing today. “It’s a normal course of business for China’s official boats to maintain its sovereignty and exercise its administrative rights.”
Kawai may meet Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun next week in Tokyo, the Mainichi newspaper said today, without citing anyone.
Tension over the islands flared in September after Japan bought the islands from their private owner, a move that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda made in part to head off a proposal by Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara to purchase them.
Ishihara, an advocate of Japan acquiring nuclear weapons and a longtime critic of China, announced today he will resign and form a new political party ahead of an election that must be called by August. Ishihara told a briefing he plans to run for a parliamentary seat in the elections.
In a 1990 Playboy magazine interview, Ishihara denied Japan slaughtered Chinese civilians in 1937 in Nanjing, prompting an outcry in China, which says more than 300,000 people were massacred.
Two Chinese men were arrested for allegedly vandalizing a Japanese restaurant in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou in September, the official Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday. Xinhua reported five other people were arrested in Guangzhou earlier this month for their roles in the protests.