Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Apparent China sub, warship approach waters near Senkakus

Apparent China sub, warship approach waters near Senkakus

Meanwhile, the Chinese frigate was spotted in the contiguous zone near the isle on Thursday morning.

Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama lodged a protest with Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua over the submarine's entry into the contiguous zone, telling Cheng the action "is a serious escalation of the situation", according to the Foreign Ministry.

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.

A foreign submarine was also detected in the contiguous waters near Japanese territory on Wednesday and Thursday, said the country's Defence Ministry, which believes that the submarine is also from China, as reported by local news agency Kyodo.

Relations between China and Japan have shown signs of improvement in recent months after their leaders both gained fresh mandates and domestic support at the end of past year.

The uninhabited islets are also claimed by China and Taiwan, where they are known as Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.

"This behavior unilaterally raises tensions, and we are seriously concerned about it", Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told the press.

The submarine's presence was confirmed by a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force escort ship and a P-3C aircraft, the statement said.

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The crisis management mechanism, however, excludes Japan's territorial waters and air space around the disputed Senkaku Islands. While incursions into Japan's contiguous zone and territorial sea around the Senkakus are fairly common for Chinese maritime law enforcement vessels and civilian fishing trawlers, incursions by Chinese naval vessels are comparatively rarer.

China and Japan traded accusations on Thursday after a Chinese navy vessel was detected in waters near disputed islands in the East China Sea, adding fresh uncertainty as the two sides try to improve bilateral ties.

"The [Diaoyu Islands] are a natural part of Chinese territory", Lu Kang, Beijing's foreign ministry spokesman, said Thursday, according to UPI. "China's decision to guard the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai territory is unshaken".

Onodera made the statement during a visit to Hawaii Thursday.

The ministry is closely monitoring the submarine's move and collecting information.

Thursday was the first time a Chinese military vessel had entered that area since June 2016.

The Japan Coast Guard said Chinese ships entered Japanese waters 114 times past year.

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