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Coast Guard rescues Chinese man after attempt to land hot air balloon on Senkakus falls flat

AFP-JIJI, AP

A Chinese man was rescued by the Japan Coast Guard after failing to land a hot air balloon on the Senkaku Islands on New Year’s Day, an official said Thursday.

Xu Shuaijun, a 35-year-old cook, set out from Fujian province on Wednesday morning, aiming to land on one of the islets in the Japan-controlled chain, which China claims as Diaoyu and Taiwan as Tiaoyutai, the Coast Guard official said.

He sent out a distress call after encountering trouble near the islets in the East China Sea, the official said.

A Japanese rescue helicopter found the balloon 22 km south of the chain and rescued Xu, who was unhurt, the official said. He was handed over to a Chinese patrol ship outside of Japanese waters.

Chinese and Taiwanese activists have made several attempts to land on the disputed islets.

Regional tensions rose in late November when China abruptly declared a new air defense identification zone over the East China Sea, including the Senkaku Islands.

Chinese ships and aircraft have been frequenting the area to demonstrate its territorial claims.