Japan said Thursday it was tracking a Chinese frigate in waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea — the first such incursion in more than a year near the flash point isles claimed by both countries.
Maritime Self-Defense Force ships spotted the 4,000-ton Jiangkai II class frigate around 11 a.m. in waters surrounding the Tokyo-administered isles, which are claimed as the Diaoyu islands by China.
Defense Ministry spokesman Go Yamaguchi said that a submarine of unknown nationality had also been spotted entering the contiguous waters off the disputed islands.
Contiguous waters are a 12-nautical-mile band that extends beyond territorial waters.
Under international rules they are not the preserve of any single country, although the resident power has certain limited rights.
“We are monitoring the vessels and sending a message to them that they entered the contiguous waters near Japanese territory,” said Yamaguchi.
The official said it was the first such incursion since June 2016.
Relations between Japan and China deteriorated in 2012 when Tokyo “nationalized” some of the islets.
Since then, the two top Asian economies have taken gradual steps to mend fences but relations remain tense.
Chinese coast guard vessels routinely travel around the disputed islands.
Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama met Chinese ambassador Cheng Yonghua later Thursday, but no details of the meeting were immediately available and neither official commented to the media.