NAHA — Four Chinese maritime surveillance ships entered Japan’s territorial waters off the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea on Tuesday afternoon, the Japan Coast Guard said.
The coast guard said it has called on the ships by radio to leave the area, while Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba told a press conference that Tokyo has lodged a complaint with the Chinese government over the intrusion.
The four ships were previously spotted in the morning in the contiguous zone off Uotsuri Island, one of the main islets of the disputed islands group.
Another two Chinese fishery surveillance ships were also spotted in the contiguous zone off Uotsuri, the coast guard said. A contiguous zone is a band of water just outside a nation’s territorial waters.
In Tokyo, the Japanese government has set up a task force at the crisis management center of the prime minister’s office to deal with the issue, government officials said.
On Monday, seven vessels — one Taiwanese patrol ship and six Chinese surveillance ships — were spotted in the contiguous zone. The Taiwanese ship and four of the Chinese vessels left later in the day.
The moves came amid continued tensions over the sovereignty of the islands, which China and Taiwan also claim.
The Senkaku Islands, which are called Diaoyu in China and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan, are a group of uninhabited islets which Japan says belongs to the city of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture.
China has escalated its maritime activities around the disputed islet group since the Japanese government nationalized the islet group in September.
In a speech at a U.N. session in New York late last month, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi accused Japan of “stealing” the islands and “grossly” violating Chinese sovereignty in the process.
The Japanese government says there is no territorial dispute involving the Senkaku Islands, which it says are historically integral parts of Japanese territory.