News Column

Japan Boosts Patrols Around Disputed Sekuku Islands

Jan. 8, 2013

Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, in English 1300 08 Jan 13

Text of report in English by Japan's largest news agency Kyodo

Tokyo, 8 January - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera on Tuesday [8 January] to increase surveillance of waters around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea after Chinese government ships remained within Japanese- controlled waters around them for more than half a day.

The Japanese government lodged a strong protest with the Chinese government over the incident earlier in the day, with Deputy Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki summoning Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua to the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.

During a meeting at the prime minister's office, Abe told Onodera to "steadily respond" to the situation and maintain surveillance over islands in Okinawa Prefecture, including the Senkaku Islands which are claimed by China, according to a government source.

In response, the Defence Ministry plans to strengthen surveillance in the area and remain prepared to scramble Air Self- Defence Force fighter jets to intercept unauthorized aircraft that threaten to violate Japanese airspace.

The ministry also plans to reinforce cooperation with the Japan Coast Guard, whose patrol vessels have kept a heavy presence in waters around the Senkaku Islands, according to government officials.

In his meeting with Cheng, Saiki pointed out that the Chinese vessels remained within Japanese waters for hours despite Japan's repeated calls for them to leave immediately, and demanded that such incidents never happen again, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Cheng asserted Beijing's claims to the islands, called Diaoyu in China, and declined to accept the Japanese position, but told Saiki that he would nonetheless convey the message to the Chinese government The Chinese ambassador was summoned to the ministry for the first time since Abe became prime minister and launched his Cabinet on Dec. 26.

Four Chinese maritime surveillance vessels entered Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands before noon Monday, remaining in the waters for more than 13 hours until they left shortly after midnight.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the Chinese move an "extremely unusual incident and very regrettable," drawing attention to the prolonged presence of the vessels in Japanese waters.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei dismissed Japan's protest, saying the uninhabited islets, administered by Japan for decades, are China's "inherent territory" and that waters around the islands belong to China.

"Chinese planes and ships patrol in waters and space around the Diaoyu Islands, a normal performance of duty," Hong told a press conference.

"We do not accept Japan's representations." A senior Japanese official in Tokyo told reporters that China will probably continue demonstrating its territorial claims using various means. "Naturally, we as a state have been working on countermeasures," the official said.

Japan-China relations have sunk to their lowest level in years since the Japanese government purchased three of the five main islands in the Senkaku group from their Japanese owner in September last year.

Along with China, the islands are claimed by Taiwan, which calls them Tiaoyutai.

Source: (C) 2013 BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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