This hand-out picture taken on August 7, 2016 and released by Japan's coast guard shows China's coast guard ship 33102 sailing near the disputed East China Sea islands. (AFP photo)
Four Chinese ships have sailed near islands in the East China Sea that are administered by Japan but also claimed by Beijing, Tokyo says.
The Japan Coast Guard said Sunday that the four Chinese-operated vessels entered territorial waters surrounding the islands at around 10:30 a.m. (0130 GMT) and left about 90 minutes later.
The move could further stoke the long-running tensions between Japan and China over the islets. Japan administers uninhabited islands and calls them Senkaku while China refers to them as Diaoyu.
The dispatch of the vessels was the first since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Chinese President Xi Jinping last week at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China. The two leaders had insisted during their meeting that restraint should be exercised and Japan and China should “put aside disruptions.”
The new alleged move by Beijing also comes as Japan was trying to press China over a recent nuclear test by North Korea, which has sparked global condemnation. The powerful test on Friday, which was the fifth Pyongyang has ever conducted, prompted Japan, South Korea and the United States to ask China, as North Korea’s biggest economic partner, to pile more pressure on Pyongyang to comply with UN resolutions.
Hundreds of Chinese fishing boats sailed into waters surrounding the disputed islands just weeks ago. Tokyo reacted angrily, saying the escort of boats by government ships showed it was a provocation.
In a bid to counter rising Chinese activity around the islands, Japan has increased its security and defense cooperation with countries that have disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea, including the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations.