Tokyo: Chinese coastguard ships on Friday sailed into disputed waters at the centre of a bitter row with Tokyo, officials said, a day after China blasted Japanese lawmakers for visiting a controversial war shrine.
The four government vessels spent about two hours within the 12-nautical-mile band around the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands -- which Beijing calls the Diaoyu islands -- in the East China Sea.
Japan`s coastguard said the vessels had left territorial waters by 12:30 pm local time but remained in the area.
The incursion came after Beijing yesterday summoned Japan`s ambassador to condemn a visit by nearly 100 Japanese lawmakers to the Yasukuni shrine on the anniversary of Tokyo`s World War II surrender.
Japanese politicians` visits to the site are seen as a slap in the face by neighbouring nations, especially China and South Korea, which suffered from Tokyo`s imperialist expansion in the first half of the 20th century.
Today`s incident was the latest in a series of incursions by Chinese ships as relations between Tokyo and Beijing plumb all-time lows.
Last week, the Japanese Foreign Ministry summoned Beijing`s envoy after Chinese ships spent more than a day in the disputed waters, marking their longest such incursion since the long-simmering dispute erupted again last year after Tokyo nationalised some of the chain.
The islands -- believed to harbour vast natural resources below their seabed -- are seen as a potential flashpoint that some observers fear could lead to armed conflict between the Asian giants.