BEIJING, March 16 (Reuters) – China’s foreign ministry on Thursday refuted Japan’s territorial claims to disputed waters in the East China Sea, calling the move a “serious violation” of Chinese sovereignty.
“Chinese coast guard ships conducted law enforcement on the ground in accordance with the law, it is a legitimate measure to protect Chinese sovereignty,” spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters at a regular press briefing.
Wang made the comments in response to a question to the Japan Coast Guard in which he said China Coast Guard ships were violating Japanese territorial waters around the disputed islets in the East China Sea.
The area is claimed by both China and Japan and has long been a sticking point in bilateral relations. China calls the islands Diaoyu while Japan calls them Senkaku.
China’s coast guard said on Wednesday it entered waters around disputed islets in the East China Sea to counter the alleged incursion of Japanese ships into Chinese territorial waters.
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China’s naval police spokesman Gan Yu said in a statement that Coast Guard vessels entered the waters of the Diaoyu on a “normal patrol for the protection of rights”, calling it a “routine move”.
“(This is also) a strong countermeasure against the entry of a yacht and several patrol vessels by the Japanese side into our territorial waters,” Gan said, though he did not specify any incident.
China’s Coast Guard said in late January that the Shinsei Maru and four other Japanese ships had illegally entered the territorial waters of the Diaoyu Islands before being driven off by China’s Coast Guard ships.
On Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will hold a summit with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in Tokyo, Japan’s first meeting in more than a decade, at a time when the United States hopes the two neighbors will see a more united front against Beijing. .
Reporting by Eduardo Baptista and the Beijing newsroom; Edited by Toby Chopra and Christina Fincher
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