Chinese frigates sighted on disputed islands with Japan

Chinese frigates entered the contiguous zone around the group of islands disputed with Japan in the East China Sea, prompting Tokyo to lodge a protest note.

Japan’s Defense Ministry issued a statement on July 4 saying the Chinese Type-053H-class frigate had entered a “contiguous zone of territorial waters” southwest of an entity in the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands currently controlled by Tokyo.

Japan said the Chinese frigate appeared in the area at 7:44 a.m. and left six minutes later.

The contiguous zone is a 12-nautical-mile-wide sea outside the area identified as territorial waters.

“We express our deep concern and send a note of protest through diplomatic channels to China, and urge them not to repeat this,” said Seiji Kihara, Japan’s deputy chief cabinet secretary.

Kihara said the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands are “Japanese territory from both historical point of view and international law.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lap kien said at a news conference that the Senkakus/Diaoyu were “Chinese territory” and that the country’s frigate’s activities in the region were “perfectly legal.”

The Senkaku/Diaoyu is a group of uninhabited islands located about 1,900 km from Tokyo and About 600 km from Shanghai, currently controlled by Japan.

Tensions between Japan and China over sovereignty over the island group have been going on for years. After Tokyo nationalized the island group in 2012, anti-Japanese protests broke out in China.

Japanese broadcaster NHK said Chinese coast guard vessels are regularly present near the Senkakus/Diaoyu, but this is the first time a Japanese navy warship has approached the island group since 2018.

Japanese media, citing unnamed sources from the defense ministry, said a Russian naval vessel had also entered waters near the Senkaku/Diaoyu almost simultaneously with the Chinese frigate.

Tokyo has not commented on the report.