A Chinese navy vessel has been spotted in Japan's territorial waters near islands belonging to Kagoshima Prefecture, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

A survey ship entered Japanese waters from west of Kuchinoerabu Island at around 11 p.m. Tuesday and sailed out of the territorial waters south of Yakushima island at around 2:10 a.m. Wednesday, the ministry said.

It is the first such entry by a Chinese navy vessel that the Defense Ministry has confirmed and announced since last November. The Japanese government lodged a protest with China through diplomatic channels.

The Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Japan Coast Guard monitored the passage of the Chinese vessel.

Chinese ships have repeatedly entered Japan's territorial waters or navigated in adjacent areas, most notably near the Senkaku Islands, a group of East China Sea islets controlled by Japan but claimed by China, which calls them the Diaoyu.

China's growing military presence in the South and East China seas has been a source of friction with countries in the region, with some having overlapping territorial claims.