Japan accuses Beijing of sending surveillance vessels to Diaoyus

Tensions between China and Japan remain high. Photo: AP

Beijing sent maritime surveillance vessels to patrol waters near disputed islands in the East China Sea on Sunday and yesterday, the first two days of the Lunar New Year, as tensions between China and Japan remained high.

Japan's coastguard said four Chinese maritime surveillance ships had been spotted on Sunday in waters around the disputed Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan.

It was the first time that Chinese ships had entered the area since last week, when Japan accused China of targeting fire-control radar at a Japanese destroyer and military helicopter in two separate incidents last month. Three of the ships left the area yesterday morning.

China branded last week's Japanese accusation as "false" and said it had been fabricated to "hype up the so-called China threat theory". State media ran high-profile reports saying patrols around the disputed islands and military drills would continue during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday. Xinhua reported that one of the surveillance vessels, Haijian 137, broadcast a statement in Chinese and English on Sunday, warning nearby Japanese ships that they were in Chinese territory.

The surveillance vessel encountered strong winds yesterday, but that did not deter its crew, Xinhua reported.

"I could see the Diaoyu Islands every day, and I keep a close watch on them. That makes me feel that I am actually standing on solid ground," it quoted crew member Tian Shulin, who has worked for the State Oceanic Administration for two decades, as saying.

The People's Liberation Army Daily reported yesterday that two military planes belonging to the East China Sea fleet had scrambled to follow a plane from an unidentified country.

The East China Sea fleet vowed it was ready for military confrontation, and even recreational activities on board were full of the "spirit of military struggle", the paper reported.

"I will follow the commands of the [Communist] party without hesitation," the PLA Daily quoted Mao Guojie, a commander, as saying.

"As a navy soldier, I can sacrifice my blood and life to protect the waters of the nation."

Tokyo has stepped up military drills. Japan's Ground Self-Defence Force staged a joint drill with the United States on San Clemente Island, California, on Saturday, simulating the "recapture of an island lost to the enemy".

The "Iron Fist" exercises, which started on January 15 and will end on February 22, are the largest joint drills conducted in the US since 2006, with 1,000 US troops and 280 Japanese troops taking part.

They have also included live fire, close air support and artillery training.

China and Japan engaged in a fresh round of bitter exchanges after last week's radar-locking accusation.


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