China confronts Japanese politicians in disputed East China Sea area

April 29, 2024 - 8:28 AM
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A group of disputed islands, Uotsuri island (top), Minamikojima (bottom) and Kitakojima, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China is seen in the East China Sea, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 2012. Mandatory credit. (Reuters/Kyodo/File Photo)

 China’s coast guard confronted Japanese lawmakers in waters claimed by both countries in the East China Sea, China’s embassy in Tokyo and Japanese media said on Sunday, the latest in a series of maritime disputes involving China and its neighbors.

Chinese vessels took unspecified law enforcement measures, the embassy said in a statement, adding that it had lodged solemn representations for what it called “infringement and provocation” by Japan near tiny, uninhabited islands that Beijing calls the Diaoyu and Tokyo calls the Senkaku.

The Japanese group, including former Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, was on an inspection mission organized by the city of Ishigaki in Okinawa prefecture, according to the Chinese embassy and Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

Japan and China have repeatedly faced off around the Japan-administered islands. China also has escalating run-ins with the Philippine navy in disputed areas of the South China Sea, where Beijing’s expansive maritime claims conflict with those of a number of Southeast Asia nations.

Inada’s group spent three hours near the islands on Saturday, using drones to observe the area, and the Japanese coast guard vessel sought to fend off the Chinese coast guard, NHK said.

“The government and the public are aware of the severe security situation,” said Inada, a senior official of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, according to NHK. “The Senkaku are our sovereign territory and we need to go ashore for research.”

It was the first such inspection trip to the area involving a member of Japan’s parliament since 2013, NHK reported.

Officials of Japan’s foreign ministry were not immediately available for comment outside of working hours.

China strongly urged Japan to abide by what it called a consensus reached between the two countries, stop political provocations, on-site incidents and hyping up public opinion, the embassy said.

It asked Japan to “return to the right track of properly managing contradictions and differences through dialogue and consultation, so as to avoid further escalation of the situation”.

— Reporting by Liz Lee in Beijing, Junko Fujita in Tokyo and Beijing newsroom; Editing by William Mallard