Pacific

Three Chinese ships in disputed waters: Japan

This photo, taken by the Japan Coast Guard on April 23, 2013, shows a Chinese marine surveillance ship cruising near the disputed islets -- known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu islands in China -- in the East China Sea. Three Chinese government ships have sailed into waters around disputed islands controlled by Tokyo, according to the Japanese coastguard.

This photo, taken by the Japan Coast Guard on April 23, 2013, shows a Chinese marine surveillance ship cruising near the disputed islets -- known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu islands in China -- in the East China Sea. Three Chinese government ships have sailed into waters around disputed islands controlled by Tokyo, according to the Japanese coastguard.  (Japan Coast Guard/AFP/File)

Three Chinese government ships sailed into waters around disputed islands controlled by Tokyo for about five hours on Saturday, the Japanese coastguard said.

The maritime surveillance vessels entered the 12-nautical-mile zone off Uotsurijima, one of the Senkaku islands, which China calls the Diaoyus, in the East China Sea shortly after 9:30 am (0030 GMT).

They were seen leaving the zone at around 2:30 pm, the coastguard said.

Ships from the two countries have been involved in a stand-off as Beijing and Tokyo jostle over ownership of the strategically important and resource-rich islands.

A territorial row that dates back four decades reignited last September when Tokyo nationalised three islands in the chain, in what it said was a mere administrative change of ownership.

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