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Japan protests Chinese vessels near disputed island chain

By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 8, 2016

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Japan launched a series of protests with China in recent days over what it considers provocations near disputed islets in the East China Sea.

The complaints were issued Friday, Saturday and Sunday after eight Chinese vessels entered Japanese territorial waters near the resource-rich Senkaku island chain.

A record number of 14 Chinese government vessels sailed through Japan’s contiguous zone since last Wednesday. As of 10 a.m. Monday, 12 Chinese vessels were still in the area.

Japan has also taken issue with surface radar discovered on a Chinese gas-drilling platform.

“We lodged a strong protest with China over the intrusion, urging China not to raise tensions in the area,” Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, told reporters Monday. “Japan will respond to the situation with a resolute and calm attitude.”

Japan’s coast guard is generally the first agency to respond to reports of incursions by foreign vessels. Its Self-Defense Forces provide information from routine surveillance, said a Ministry of Defense spokesman. Special monitoring activities — such as P-3 Orion missions — are not taking place, the ministry said.

China’s moves come during a tense time for diplomacy in the region. The communist country has remained defiant after an international tribunal ruled against its expansion activities in the South China Sea, where about $5 trillion in global trade transits annually. It has long denied Japan’s claims to the Senkakus — called Diaoyu by the Chinese — and have vowed to traverse that area unimpeded.

The protests filed with the Chinese Embassy in Japan said the incursions were a violation of Japan’s sovereignty and unacceptable. They called for the vessels to immediately vacate Japan’s territorial waters and its contiguous zone.

On Friday, the ministry lodged a separate protest with China over a surface radar and monitoring cameras found to have been installed on one of the Chinese gas-drilling platforms in the East China Sea.

“We called for an explanation of their intended purpose and use, and informed the Chinese that Japan cannot accept such equipment and demanded its immediate removal,” said a spokeswoman with Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Chinese officials were mute on state-run media in their response to Japan’s assertions.

Japanese government officials said they would continue to monitor China’s movements.

burke.matt@stripes.com

sumida.chiyomi@stripes.com

A Japanese citizen holds a sign protesting the Chinese government's claim of ownership of the Senkaku Islands in this undated photo. Japan launched a series of protests with China in recent days over what it considers to be provocations near the disputed islets in the East China Sea.
COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

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