• Kyodo

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Chinese Coast Guard ships that entered Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea over the weekend have remained there for a record length of time, the Japan Coast Guard said Tuesday.

The two ships entered the waters near the islands, which are claimed by China, at around 10:45 a.m. Sunday, and attempted to approach a Japanese fishing boat, the coast guard said.

They have remained in the waters since then, although Japanese coast guard vessels in the area have repeatedly urged them to leave while protecting the fishing vessel.

“The situation has continued for more than two full days, and it is very regrettable,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, adding that Japan has repeatedly warned the vessels to leave the waters and “strongly protested” to China over the intrusion through diplomatic channels.

The top government spokesman said Japan is determined to protect its territory.

It is the longest period Chinese vessels have intruded in the waters since the Japanese government put the islets under state control in September 2012 after buying out a private Japanese owner.

The previous record was set in July, when Chinese vessels intruded into the waters for 39 hours and 23 minutes.

On Tuesday, the coast guard said it also spotted another pair of Chinese vessels sailing in the so-called contiguous zone outside Japan’s territorial waters.

Chinese vessels were seen sailing near the Senkakus for the 37th straight day, according to the coast guard.

China, which has aggressively asserted its territorial claims in the East and South China seas, continues to send vessels to waters around the Japan-controlled islands, which it calls the Diaoyu.

China created a digital museum earlier this month that it says “helps viewers further understand the indisputable fact” that the uninhabited islands are part of Chinese territory. Japan has protested the move.

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