Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi lodged a protest Tuesday against China sending its government ships into Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Chinese ships have intruded in waters near the Japanese-controlled islets seven times this year, most recently last Friday when four coast guard vessels sailed through the area for about 90 minutes before leaving. China calls the islets Diaoyu and claims them as its own.

Motegi raised the issue during an evening phone call with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi as well as voicing concerns over China's establishment of districts to administer the Paracel and Spratly islands in the South China Sea, which are the subject of a territorial dispute with neighboring countries.

"We condemn all acts that raise tensions" in the area, Motegi told a news conference.

Motegi and Wang agreed to continue cooperating over their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including by sharing information in a transparent and timely manner, ensuring that medical supplies such as masks can be traded smoothly and supporting developing nations, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

The new coronavirus that causes the disease was first identified in central China late last year and has quickly spread around the world, infecting nearly 2.5 million and causing more than 170,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Motegi stressed the need to review the operations of the World Health Organization, which has been criticized over its response to the pandemic, the ministry said.has