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Ships of new China coast guard spotted near islands at center of dispute with Japan

Chinese coast guard ships have been spotted for the first time near disputed islands controlled by Japan following a reorganization of the service in a bid to boost its effectiveness.

Japan's coast guard said four Chinese craft were viewed early Wednesday just outside Japanese territorial waters around the East China Sea islands called Diaoyu by China and Senkaku by Japan.

Chinese websites ran photos reportedly taken by the Japanese coast guard showing a ship painted in red, white and blue striped China coast guard livery.

The new service formally inaugurated on Monday combines four bodies formerly responsible for fisheries administration, maritime surveillance, customs enforcement and border control.

China has also frequently sparred with the Philippines and Vietnam over overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea.