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NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) A Chinese patrol boat was spotted Thursday morning near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, the Japan Coast Guard said.

Identified as the Yuzheng 201, the vessel was seen around 7:50 a.m. just outside Japan’s territorial waters, about 29 km northwest from Kuba Island, one of the islets of the Japan-administered Senkaku group.

The coast guard warned the vessel by radio not to enter Japanese territorial waters, officials said.

The Chinese vessel responded by saying “the Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Chinese territory. We are conducting legitimate operations,” according to the officials.

The same ship was spotted navigating near the islet group in late November.

Five Chinese patrol vessels, including the Yuzheng 201, have been spotted in the area since the September clash between a Chinese fishing boat and the Japan Coast Guard.

‘Takeshima Day’

MATSUE , Shimane Pref. (Kyodo) Shu Watanabe of the Democratic Party of Japan will become the ruling party’s first lawmaker to attend an annual ceremony commemorating “Takeshima Day” in Shimane Prefecture on Feb. 22, prefectural officials and local DPJ members said Wednesday.

The plan is part of the DPJ’s efforts to fend off domestic criticism that it has been too soft on the sovereignty of the South Korean-controlled islets in the Sea of Japan. However, the move could provoke a backlash from Seoul.

The move comes at a time when territorial disputes have been under the spotlight following the Sept. 7 run-in between a Chinese trawler and Japan Coast Guard cutters near the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands, which are claimed by China and Taiwan.

Watanabe, 49, plans to join the Shimane event to promote Japan’s claim to the islets, called Dokdo in South Korea.

Watanabe is considering taking part in a panel discussion on the territorial issue at the event, the officials said, adding the local government will also call on certain Cabinet members, including the foreign and education ministers, to attend.

Watanabe, who heads the DPJ’s National Rallying and Canvassing Committee, belongs to a bipartisan group of lawmakers working on protecting Japanese territory.

Hisaaki Komuro, the lawmaker who heads the party’s prefectural chapter and who was opposed to designating “Takeshima Day,” is also scheduled to attend the ceremony, party members said.

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