Chinese Coast Guard ships entered Japan’s 12-nautical-mile zone near one of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea on Monday, days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe caused an international stir by comparing Sino-Japanese relations with British-German ties in the runup to World War I.
The Japan Coast Guard said the Chinese vessels encroached at around 9 a.m. and left the area about two hours later.
It came as Abe was in New Delhi, where he and Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh affirmed plans to strengthen defense cooperation, including joint maritime exercises on a “regular basis with increased frequency.”
His three-day visit to India is being keenly watched by China, analysts say. Beijing is sometimes uneasy about what it sees as an attempt by the U.S.-backed Japan to encircle it.
Beijing also has an often-fractious relationship with New Delhi, partly because of a border dispute that erupted into a brief war in 1962. India is keen to burnish friendships in the region to offset its giant neighbor’s growing might.
Abe was in Delhi days after he drew a comparison between Japan’s and China’s relations and those of Britain and Germany as they stumbled toward World War I.
For its part, Beijing has sought to conjure the spectre of Nazism by comparing Abe with Hitler and urging him to emulate Germany’s postwar contrition.
Chinese state-owned ships and aircraft have approached the Senkakus on and off to demonstrate Beijing’s territorial claims to islets it refers to as the Daioyu, especially after Japan effectively nationalized the chain in September 2012.
Junichi Ihara, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, lodged a protest by phone with Han Zhiqiang, minister at the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo.
When the Japan Coast Guard warned the three Chinese vessels to leave the waters, one of them responded in both Japanese and Chinese, saying the Diaoyu islands are a historically integral part of China, according to the headquarters. Taiwan also claims the islets as Tiaoyutai.