China to map out Senkaku Islands

AFP-JIJI

China plans to conduct a geographical survey of the disputed Senkaku Islands, the state-run Xinhua news agency said Tuesday.

The survey is part of a program to map China’s “territorial islands and reefs,” Xinhua said, citing a state geographical agency.

The program is part of China’s efforts to “safeguard its maritime rights and interests,” the news agency said, without giving a date for the survey or making clear whether it would involve activities on land or be confined to sea.

It quoted Zhang Huifeng, an official with China’s National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation, as acknowledging that the mapping could encounter problems.

“There are some difficulties in landing on some islands to survey, and in surveying and mapping the surrounding sea area of the islands, because some countries infringed and occupied these islands of China,” he said.

The territorial dispute, which has simmered off and on for years, intensified last year when Japan nationalized the uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, triggering anger and protests in China.

Both sides have scrambled fighter jets to the area in recent weeks in a further escalation, though no actual clashes have taken place.

In a related move, U.S. and Japanese fighter jets on Tuesday carried out joint air exercises, an official said, days after Chinese and Japanese military planes shadowed each other near the islets.

The five-day exercise involves six U.S. F/A-18 fighters and around 90 American personnel, along with four Japanese F-4 jets and an unspecified number of people, the official said.

The drill is being carried out over the Pacific off Shikoku.