Path: Sino-US >> Sino-US>> Updates >>
Chinese ships sail near disputed East China Sea islands

This aerial shot taken on September 15, 2010, shows the disputed islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea. Photo: Getty Images

Three Chinese Coast Guard ships entered waters near a chain of islands claimed by both China and Japan in the East China Sea on Monday, according to authorities from both sides.

Japan controls the chain and calls them the Senkaku Islands, while China calls them the Diaoyu Islands.

The sailing comes just days after US Defense Secretary James Mattis reaffirmed America's commitment to defending Japan and its disputed islands.

According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, protests were lodged with the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo and in Beijing through the Japanese Embassy.

Tensions have flashed numerous times in recent years over the disputed islands, including face-offs between Japanese and Chinese air and naval forces that have been termed dangerous by both sides.

China's State Oceanic Administration, which oversees the country's Coast Guard, put out a statement late Monday saying the three ships "cruised within China's Diaoyu Islands territorial sea."

China's Defense Ministry, which is separate from the Oceanic Administration, posted a statement on its website confirming the Coast Guard ship movement.

Japan's Coast Guard said the Chinese vessels spent two hours in Japanese territorial waters.

It was the fourth time Chinese ships have entered Japan's waters this year, the Japanese Coast Guard said. There were 36 such incidents in 2016, it said.

During a press conference Saturday in Tokyo, Mattis said the US would defend the islands with Japan.

"I made clear that our long-standing policy on the Senkaku Islands stands -- the US will continue to recognize Japanese administration of the islands and as such Article 5 of the US-Japan Security Treaty applies," Mattis said in a press conference with Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada.

China responded quickly on Saturday to the US stance on the islands, saying it brings instability to the region.

"Diaoyu and its affiliated islands have been Chinese territory since ancient times. These are historical facts that cannot be changed. The so-called US-Japan security treaty was a product of the Cold War, and it should not harm China's territorial sovereignty and legitimate rights," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement.

"We urge the US side to adopt a responsible attitude and stop making wrong remarks on the issue of the sovereignty of Diaoyu Islands," Lu said.

The US commitment to the Diaoyu Islands, which Mattis also reaffirmed in a Friday night meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is not new. In 2014, the Obama administration also said the remote chain fell under the treaty.

In late 2013, China declared an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over much of the East China Sea, including the Diaoyu Islands, despite objections from Tokyo and Washington.

Japan also has an ADIZ over the islands. Although the Diaoyu Islands are uninhabited, their ownership would allow for exclusive oil, mineral and fishing rights in the surrounding waters.

While the Diaoyu Islands remain a source of friction in the US-China relationship, Mattis' visit seemed to have soothed relations a bit in another area, the South China Sea.

Although the US defense chief said "China has shredded the trust of nations in the region" by fortifying disputed South China Sea islands, Mattis also said no increased US military maneuvers there were needed.

Lu, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, on Monday welcomed that stance.

"As for Mattis' comment that there is no need for large-scale military operations in the area and the issue should be resolved through diplomacy, these remarks deserve our affirmation," Lu said.

Related Stories
Share this page
Touched Sympathetic Bored Angry Amused Sad Happy No comment