Japan’s vice foreign minister issued a protest with China’s ambassador to Japan early Thursday, after another naval incident in the East China Sea.
A Chinese navy ship sailed close to islands claimed by both China and Japan.
The Senkaku islands, as they are called in Japanese, are uninhabited islands northeast of Taiwan. They are controlled by Japan, but China as well as Taiwan claim them.
The Chinese call the area the Diaoyu islands. China said its navy has every right to sail through the waters near the islands, which it considers Chinese territory.
Japan said it will protect the islands “by any means”. The Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters the incident is a serious matter.
Patrol ships from China are sometimes seen sailing in waters near areas that Japan considers its territory. But Thursday’s incident marked the first time a naval ship had sailed into this disputed area.
A Japanese destroyer confirmed that a Chinese ship entered a protected zone northeast of Kuba island. The island is part of the disputed Senkakus. The Chinese ship remained there for two-and-a-half hours, according to Japan’s defense ministry.
At about the same time, the Japanese defense ministry said three Russian battleships also came close to what Japan considers its territory.
The Russian ships entered the area around 9:50 p.m. on Wednesday. The ships left around 3:05 a.m. on Thursday, the Jiji Press reported. The news agency also reported that Russian naval ships have entered the waters in the past.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga said Japan is “investigating and analyzing whether the two incidents are related.”
Japan has warned that any foreign naval vessels entering into its claimed waters for any reason other than “innocent passage” would be told to leave by Japanese patrols.
The Senkaku island area has a large amount of international ship travel. The islands and rocks are close to major shipping lanes. The islands are near possible oil and gas reserves, as well as good fishing grounds.
Japanese officials say Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has told his government to coordinate with the United States and other countries about the incident.
The Obama administration has confirmed that U.S. forces could come to the aid of Japan if the islands are attacked. That aid comes as part of a security agreement between the countries.
I’m Anna Mateo.
Steve Herman wrote this story for VOA News. Jim Dresbach adapted it for Learning English and VOANews.com. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in This Story
uninhabited – adj. not lived in by people
destroyer – n. a small and fast military ship that protects bigger ships
zone – n. an area that is different from other areas in a particular way
lane – n. an ocean route used by ships