Two coast guard vessels entered Japan's territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands, NHK news reports
On Monday morning, two Chinese coast guard vessels entered Japan's territorial waters near the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, an East China Sea archipelago which is the subject of longstanding dispute between Beijing and Tokyo, NHK news reports.
The ships entered the waters about 20km off the island of Minami Kojima at around 7am and approached a Japanese fishing boat, the Japanese public broadcaster reported, citing Coast Guard officials.
To "ensure the safety of the fishing boats," NHK said, the Japan Coast Guard sent patrol ships to the area and asked the Chinese vessels to leave immediately. Later, the Japanese authorities confirmed that the vessels left the waters of the Senkaku Islands.
Monday's incident, according to the outlet's figures, marks the seventh time this year that Japan has spotted Chinese ships navigating off the islands, which are known in China as the Diaoyu Islands.
Tokyo has previously condemned the "intrusions" of increasingly large Chinese Coast Guard ships in Senkaku territorial waters and expressed concern over the growing number of vessels armed with automatic cannons.
Beijing insists that its Coast Guard is simply patrolling territorial waters.
"The Diaoyu Islands and affiliated islands are Chinese territory, so the sailing of Chinese Coast Guard ships in those waters is a valid measure based on law," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in June last year.
Beijing and Taiwan claim the Senkaku Islands have been part of Chinese territory since at least 1534. Japan took control of the islands in the late 19th century during the first Sino-Japanese War. Following World War II, they were placed under US control and returned to Japan in 1972. China, however, continues to claim sovereignty over the islands, which Tokyo considers an integral part of Japan's territory.
The dispute intensified in the late 1960s as evidence of significant deposits of oil and gas off the coast of the archipelago began to emerge.
Recent years have seen an apparent increase in Chinese activity in the waters surrounding the islands. In 2021, China Coast Guard vessels navigated near the Senkaku Islands almost every day, according to the Japan Coast Guard, and entered their territorial waters 34 times.