Chinese coastguard face off with Japanese politicians near disputed East China Sea islands

The Chinese coastguard confronted Japanese lawmakers in waters claimed by both countries in the East China Sea, Beijing’s embassy in Tokyo and Japanese media said on Sunday.

It is the latest in a series of maritime disputes involving China and its neighbours.

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 defence minister Tomomi Inada, was on an inspection mission organised by the city of Ishigaki in Okinawa prefecture, according to the Chinese embassy and Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

The two countries have repeatedly faced off around the Japan-controlled islands. China also has had several run-ins with Philippine vessels in disputed areas of the South China Sea, where Beijing’s expansive maritime claims conflict with those of a number of Southeast Asian nations.

Good neighbour or security threat? Mixed signals to China in Japanese report

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

“The government and the public are aware of the severe security situation,” Inada, a senior official of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, was quoted as saying by 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, according to NHK.

Japanese foreign ministry officials were not immediately available for comment outside 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 also 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”.

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