• Kyodo

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China on Wednesday defended its decision to send Coast Guard vessels to waters near islands it disputes with Japan just weeks after the countries agreed to work toward improved relations.

The decision was an “official action exercising China’s sovereign rights,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said during a regular press briefing.

The comment came in response to an official protest by the Japanese government about China’s decision to send three coast guard vessels to waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands, known as Diaoyu in China.

“The Japanese have no right to make irresponsible comments about this,” Hua said, adding that China calls on the country to “completely cease all words and actions that harm China’s sovereignty.”

This was the first time Chinese vessels have ventured into the waters, which are administered by Japan, since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Beijing on Nov. 10 to discuss ways to reduce bilateral tensions.

Asked whether China’s actions violated the spirit of the meeting, Hua called on Japan to “appropriately handle the outstanding problems currently facing the bilateral relationship.”

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