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Chinese vessels patrolling Diaoyutai waters: Japanese media

ROC Central News Agency

2012/10/05 23:00:33

Taipei, Oct. 5 (CNA) Four Chinese maritime surveillance vessels were spotted in waters near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands Friday, according to Japanese media reports, in what may become a routine occurrence in the near future.

It was the fifth straight day that Chinese surveillance ships entered waters adjacent to what Japan calls its territorial waters, Japan Kyodo news agency said.

A Hong Kong China News Agency report said it may become routine for China's surveillance ships to patrol waters surrounding the Diaoyutai island chain in the East China Sea, which has been under Japan's control since 1972 but is also claimed by Taiwan and China.

Hong Lei, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Wednesday that China's maritime surveillance ships will continue to patrol the Diaoyutais to safeguard its rights.

Citing Japanese Coast Guard authorities, the Kyodo report said crew members aboard one of those Chinese vessels responded to a Japanese order to stay away from the area by saying over a wireless device that they were performing official duties in waters under its jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, the Japanese Ministry of Defense said Thursday that a flotilla of seven Chinese warships were spotted in the open sea between the main island of Japan's Okinawa archipelago and Miyakojima Island that day.

The ministry said the fleet, composed of destroyers, frigates, submarines and disaster relief craft, was navigating in waters some 110 kilometers northeast of Miyakojima when it was spotted.

Japanese media reports said the passage of the Chinese fleet in the area might be aimed at checking the unusual convergence of three U.S. battle groups in the West Pacific in recent days.

An article posted on the website of the U.S. weekly Time Magazine Sept. 30 said two aircraft carrier battle groups and a Marine Corps air-ground task force have begun operating in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, where territorial spats are rife.

The TIME article quoted U.S. Navy officials as having confirmed that the USS George Washington carrier battle group had begun operating in the East China Sea near the Diaoyutais.

Meanwhile, the USS John C. Stennis battle group is in the South China Sea.

Furthermore, some 2,200 Marines are aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and two escorts in the nearby Philippine Sea.

The three battle groups converging in a relatively small part of the Pacific are a larger concentration of firepower than was amassed during the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis.

In the run-up to Taiwan's first-ever direct presidential election in 1996, China fired missiles near Taiwan's coastline to warn against any attempt at de jure independence.

During that crisis, the United States dispatched two aircraft-carrier battle groups to the West Pacific.

(By Yang Ming-chu and Sofia Wu)

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