China defends deployment of naval ship to Japan-claimed islands

China defends deployment of naval ship to Japan-claimed islands

Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama lodged protests Thursday and Friday to China's ambassador to Japan, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement said.

Japan's defense ministry claimed China sent two submarines near Japan-claimed territory, including the Miyako Island in Okinawa and Taisho Island in the Senkakus.

Also off Taisho Island, a Chinese Navy frigate reportedly entered the contiguous zone twice on Thursday.

Tokyo has been in a territorial dispute with Beijing over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands - known as Diaoyu Islands in China - which has intensified since the former in 2012 nationalised three of the islets.

"This behavior unilaterally raises tensions, and we are seriously concerned about it", Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told the press. The Japanese government maintains that the islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory. Both vessels left the zone in the afternoon, the ministry said.

He also said it is important that a bilateral communication mechanism for averting accidental clashes in the East China Sea be put into operation soon. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga warned China "not to undermine the trend of improvement in Japan-China relations".

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Although often strained over territorial and historical grievances, bilateral ties have recently shown signs of a thaw, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreeing late a year ago to make a "new start".

Global law requires submarines to surface and hoist the national flag when navigating through territorial waters of other nations, but not in contiguous zones.

The presence of a submarine during the latest incident adds a new dimension to the fairly regular Chinese incursions into these waters. The sailings into the contiguous zone do not present a problem under global law.

The incident comes just days after four China Coast Guard vessels entered Japanese territorial waters around the disputed islets. The Japanese Ministry of Defense did not immediately clarify if the Chinese frigate, which was a Type 054A Jiangkai-II-class frigate, belonged to the People's Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) or the China Coast Guard, which uses the Type 054A as well.

Japan controls the Senkaku Islands.

In November 2004, a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine entered Japanese territorial waters around other islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

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