China coastguard enters disputed island fray: Japan
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Last Updated: Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 19:12
Tokyo: China's coastguard approached disputed islands in the East China Sea for the first time on Wednesday and a Chinese military plane made an unprecedented journey between Okinawan islands, Japanese officials said.

The moves sparked alarm in Tokyo, where the government said it was a sign of "China's ever-growing maritime advance".

Four ships, bearing the legend "China Coast Guard", were spotted in the contiguous waters of the Senkaku islands, which Beijing claims as the Diaoyus, Japan's coastguard said.

Contiguous waters are a 12-nautical-mile band that extends beyond territorial waters. Under international rules, they are not the preserve of any one country, although the resident power has certain limited rights.

Meanwhile, a Chinese Y-8 early warning plane was seen flying over international waters between the Okinawan main island and another Japanese island of Miyako, the defence ministry said in a press release.

Japanese fighter planes were scrambled to keep a watch on the Chinese aircraft, the statement said.

Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters it was the first time a Chinese military plane had flown through the area on its way to the Pacific.

"We see it as a sign of China's ever-growing maritime advance," he said.

Vessels from China's Maritime Surveillance have frequently plied waters around the Senkaku islands -- including territorial waters -- since a huge row over their ownership flared last year when Tokyo nationalised three of them.

Confrontations between Japan's coastguard and these ships have customarily been limited to an exchange of warnings, with each side telling the other to leave.

But this is the first time Beijing's coastguard has been seen in the area.

Chinese media reported this week that a unified coastguard agency has gone into operation, integrating marine surveillance, the existing coastguard -- which came under the police -- fisheries law enforcement and Customs' anti-smuggling maritime police.

Chinese academics were reported as saying that the move would mean more armed ships.


First Published: Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 18:53

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