Three Chinese ships sailed through disputed waters off Tokyo-controlled islands in the East China Sea on Monday, the latest such incident in a bitter territorial row between the Asian giants.
The Chinese coast guard vessels entered the 12-nautical-mile territorial waters off one of the Senkakus, which China claims and calls the Diaoyus, at around 10 a.m. and left the area about three hours later, Japan's coast guard said.
Chinese vessels and aircraft have regularly approached the East China Sea archipelago -- thought to harbor vast natural resources -- after Japan nationalised some of the islands in September 2012, setting off the latest round in a long-running territorial dispute.
The incident comes just days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry raised concerns about China's territorial ambitions during talks with senior leaders including President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing.
Fears of conflict rose in November when China imposed an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea and said it required notification from planes crossing the area.
Washington was angered by the move, saying it could lead to confusion high in the skies.
On Friday Kerry warned Beijing against unilateral moves to set up a similar air defense zone over the South China Sea, where the Philippines in particular has voiced worries about China's maritime claims.
Earlier this month, the top U.S. diplomat had vowed that the United States would defend Japan against attack including over the disputed islands in the East China Sea.© (c) 2014 AFP