Four Chinese maritime surveillance ships were spotted in Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands on Sunday after ignoring warnings to stay clear, the Japan Coast Guard said.
The ships had been sailing in the contiguous zone near the disputed island chain in the East China Sea but later entered the 12-nautical-mile band around them that represents Japan’s territorial waters.
The Chinese ships were in the contiguous zone for about half an hour starting at around 6:25 a.m. Sunday. Two of them sailed into Japanese waters southeast of the islet of Kubajima at around 10:55 a.m., and the other two followed suit east of Minamikojima after 11 a.m., the coast guard said. The four surveillance ships have been cruising around the uninhabited islets since Friday.
The contiguous zone refers to a buffer area that extends a further 12 nautical miles beyond the territorial waters.
Tensions over the islands, known as Diaoyu in China and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan, have risen dramatically since Japan nationalized some of the islets on Sept. 11. The islets are suspected to be situated in rich fishing grounds and the seabed underneath may harbor vast mineral reserves.
Under treaty: U.S. VIPs
A group of former senior White House officials have told China that the Senkaku Islands are covered by America’s bilateral security treaty with Japan, former U.S. Assistant Defense Secretary Joseph Nye said Saturday.
During their recent visit to China, the heavyweights, including Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state, met Vice Premier Li Keqiang and other Chinese officials Tuesday and told them that Article 5 of the treaty is applicable to the group of Japan-administered islets in the East China Sea, Nye told a symposium in Tokyo.
At the same event, Armitage said that “there is no quick solution” to the long-standing territorial row and said Beijing is “trying to drive a wedge” between the two allies by asking Washington to take an ambiguous position on the issue.
If China attacks Japan, the United States will come to its aid, Armitage emphasized.
According to Nye, now a Harvard University professor, the visit was made at the request of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to clarify America’s stance on the issue to China.
No meeting with Wen
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will not hold bilateral talks at the Asian and European leaders meeting in Laos next week, government sources said Saturday.
The Japanese and Chinese governments have decided against arranging a bilateral chat at the two-day event from Nov. 5 to 6 because the leaders would then have to take up the Senkaku dispute, which could backfire on both sides, the sources said.
Noda and Wen are also expected to avoid meeting on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Cambodia later in the month.