China pledges regular patrols near disputed islands
Beijing: China has said it will do more to protect its fishing grounds next year, with regular patrols near disputed islands in the East China Sea that sparked a huge row with Japan.
The collision of a Chinese fishing trawler and two Japanese coastguard ships near the uninhabited islets, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, led to the worst breakdown in ties between Asia's top two economies in years.
"Normal patrols to safeguard fishing around the Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea will be organised in 2011," fisheries administration director Zhao Xingwu, was quoted on Friday by the China Daily as saying.
Surveillance of fishing grounds in the South China Sea and Yellow Sea -- where one Chinese fisherman died and another remained missing after a clash with South Korean coastguards last week -- will also be stepped up, Zhao said.
Chinese fishermen ply the waters near the mainland, but also travel as far away as the Pacific islands of Fiji and Tonga, or the waters off east African nations such as Kenya and Tanzania, which have given them special concessions.
But in the East and South China Seas, they are treading on the competing territorial claims of more than a half-dozen Asian countries, most of which involve tiny island chains that are potentially resource-rich.
Japan has protested China's patrols near the islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by both countries and Taiwan. Patrol boats from the two sides were involved in a brief standoff last month, Chinese state media said.
The two sides have worked to restore ties since the incident, which saw Beijing reduce political, cultural and economic exchanges with Tokyo.