TOKYO (AA) – Japan’s defense ministry said Wednesday that a Chinese warship had entered the country’s territorial waters for the first time in a decade, a week after a Chinese frigate sailed near a disputed island chain.
Local news agency Kyodo quoted Defense Minister Gen Nakatani as telling reporters that a Japanese patrol aircraft detected the Chinese intelligence vessel early in the morning sailing west of Kuchinoerabu Island off southwest Kagoshima Prefecture.
Hiroshige Seko, deputy chief cabinet secretary, told a press conference that a senior foreign ministry official had lodged an “expression of concern” with China’s Tokyo embassy over “Chinese military activities in general”.
"The government will continue to exert every effort in warning and surveillance activities in the waters and airspace surrounding the country," he was quoted as saying.
Last Thursday, Tokyo’s defense ministry said it would take action to protect its sovereignty after a Chinese naval vessel entered a zone in the East China Sea northeast of Kuba Island, part of the disputed Senkaku Islands.
The ship reportedly left the waters and headed north without intrusion to Japanese territorial waters, according to the ministry.
The Senkakus are a group of uninhabited islets currently controlled by Japan in the East China Sea.
China is pushing claims in areas of the neighboring South China Sea where other Southeast Asian governments have overlapping claims.
The United States and its allies -- including Japan -- have expressed fears that Beijing's buildup of airstrips on artificial islands it has built on once-submerged reefs could impede freedom of navigation in the area.