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Four Chinese ships in disputed waters: Japan

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This file photo, taken by the Japan Coast Guard on June 27, 2013, shows a Chinese marine surveillance ship cruising near the disputed islets known as Senkaku islands in Japan and Diaoyu islands in China, in the East China Sea. A territorial row that dates back four decades reignited last September when Tokyo nationalised three islands in the chain.Japan Coast Guard/AFP/File

Four Chinese government ships were on Monday sailing in waters around islands controlled by Tokyo and claimed by Beijing, the Japanese coastguard said.

The maritime surveillance vessels entered the 12-nautical-mile zone regarded as the territorial waters of the Senkaku islands, which China calls the Diaoyus, in the East China Sea, at around 5:00 am (2000 GMT Sunday), the coastguard said.

Ships from the two countries have for months traded warnings over intrusions into what both regard as sovereign areas as Beijing and Tokyo jostle over ownership of the strategically sited 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.