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Japan sees Chinese ships near the Senkaku Islands for a record 158 days

Japan has seen Chinese ships sailing near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea for a record 158 days, Tokyo’s top government spokesman said on Monday.

The territorial dispute over the Tokyo-controlled islets, known by Japan as the Senkakus and by China as the Diaoyu, has been a longstanding sore point between the countries.

Relations deteriorated in 2012 when Tokyo “nationalized” some of these remote islands, and Japanese officials regularly protested the presence of the Chinese coast guard and other ships in the surrounding waters.

On Monday, Japan’s coast guard observed four ships from the China Maritime Police Bureau sailing in the “contiguous” zone bordering Japan’s territorial sea near the island chain.

Contiguous waters are a band of twelve nautical miles extending beyond territorial waters.

It was the 158th consecutive day that Chinese boats were spotted there – beating the previous record of 157 days in 2021, top government spokesman Yoshimasa Hayashi said.

“The government considers this series of navigation within the contiguous zone and intrusion into territorial waters as an extremely serious matter,” he told reporters.

Hayashi said Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had expressed concern over the issue during a bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Seoul on Sunday.

Kishida is in the South Korean capital for the first trilateral summit between Japan, China and South Korea in almost five years. This took place on Monday morning.

In April, Beijing lodged a protest with Tokyo after a group of Japanese lawmakers visited the disputed islands, a trip the Chinese embassy labeled “provocative.”

After years of negotiations, the two countries have set up a military hotline to prevent unexpected clashes in the East China Sea. The first call took place a year ago.

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