Amid rising tensions, China says it will send a survey team to disputed islands held by Japan

A Chinese official says Beijing plans eventually to land a survey team on uninhabited islands at the heart of an increasingly dangerous territorial dispute with Japan.

It was China's clearest expression yet of an intention to set foot on the islands, adding to the sharpening rhetoric between the two sides over the islands, which are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.

In an interview with state media on Tuesday, Chinese mapping agency Vice Director Li Pengde said China plans to send a team at an "appropriate time." Li says surveying the islands by land would allow the mapping of caves and other features not visible from the air.

China since September has regularly sent ships to confront the Japanese coast guard in the area.