Japan on Tuesday repeated to China that it would send its navy to demand the withdrawal of any vessel that enters its waters for purposes other than “safe passage.”
Japan first delivered its warning to China in November, when Chinese vessels sailed near the East China Sea islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
“If a foreign naval vessel transits our waters for (purposes) other than ‘innocent passage’, we will order a sea patrol and take the step of having the Self-Defense Force unit order withdrawal,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
These islands are formally under Japanese control, but Beijing maintains they’re Chinese territory.
In response to Tuesday’s warning, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson echoed remarks that China will continue to defend its territorial claims and that the islands have been Chinese “since ancient times.”
However, spokesperson Hong Lei expressed Beijing did not want to exacerbate relations with Japan.
“At the same time we do not want to see a rise in tensions in the East China Sea and are willing to appropriately manage, control and resolve the issue via dialogue and consultations,” said Hong during a daily news briefing in Beijing.
Last year, a Chinese coast guard vessel equipped with what appeared to be gun turrets made its way through waters claimed by Japan near the islands. Japan’s coast guard said the move was the first instance of an armed Chinese vessel entering the area.
On Tuesday, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported that the Chinese coast guard was getting ready to launch a large, new vessel into the disputed South China Sea, where China’s territorial claims are in conflict with other regional neighbors including Taiwan and the Philippines.
The ship would weigh 12,000 tons and be armed with a 76-mm cannon as well as anti-aircraft guns, according to the paper. Most Chinese coast guard vessels are unarmed or carry water cannons.
The new ship, as well as a sister vessel, are larger than the two Japanese coast guard vessels which are believed to be the two largest active coast guard ships in the world, according to the paper.