Beijing: Chinese maritime surveillance ships on Thursday entered the waters around the Japanese controlled Diaoyu Islands to conduct "routine patrols" in the East China Sea, an official said here. The move is likely to further strain ties with Tokyo.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei confirmed on Thursday that Chinese maritime surveillance ships had entered the 12-nautical-mile territorial zone around the Diaoyu Islands, Xinhua reported.
"The Chinese maritime surveillance vessels conducted routine patrols in the territorial waters around China`s Diaoyu Islands to safeguard the country`s sovereignty on October 25," Hong said, adding that it was a normal activity for the Chinese surveillance ships to exercise jurisdiction over the waters.
Vessels have been spotted loitering in waters off the islands as the dispute has escalated over the last two months.
Hong made the remarks in response to a question after media reports had said a fleet of China`s maritime surveillance vessels entered the zone on Thursday.
Relations between the two countries have plummeted to their lowest level recently over their claims to the islands.
Japan claims it has occupied the islands since 1895, while China maintains the islands were recognised as Chinese as early as 1783.