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China dismisses Japan criticism over ship incident

Chinese survey ship.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Dec 9, 2008
China has dismissed a Japanese protest over two Chinese ships that entered what Tokyo considers its waters, with Beijing reiterating its own territorial claims to the area, state media reported.

Japan said Monday it had lodged a formal protest with Beijing about the "extremely regrettable" presence of the Chinese survey ships near the Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea.

But a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the ships were carrying out normal activities in Chinese waters, Xinhua news agency said late Monday.

"Since ancient times, the Diaoyu islands have been part of Chinese territory," spokesman Liu Jianchao was quoted saying.

"The Chinese ships were in Chinese territorial waters carrying our normal cruising activities that are beyond reproach."

The Xinhua report gave no other details.

It was the first time since February 2007 that Japan has spotted Chinese survey ships near the disputed islands, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso called it "an obvious intrusion."

The two ships were spotted Monday morning by the Japanese coast guard six kilometres (four miles) southeast of the uninhabited chain of islands, which are claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan.

"Such activities by Chinese ships are extremely regrettable. We are demanding the Chinese government order their immediate withdrawal," government spokesman Takeo Kawamura said Monday.

A Japanese patrol vessel issued verbal warnings to the two ships, which both belonged to the Chinese government, a Japan coast guard official said. The vessels later left the area.

Japan has made similar protests in the past but the two countries have been working to improve ties recently.

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