Japan summons Chinese envoy over sea spat

Jun 09, 2016, 3:44 AM EDT
Chinese surveillance ships near Senkaku islands
(Source: Times Asi/flickr)

A Chinese warship sailed close to contested islands in the East China Sea, prompting Japan to summon China’s ambassador in Tokyo and convey its “serious concerns” over the act that could escalate tensions in the region. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the relevant ministries were coordinating with the U.S., which is obliged to defend the island nation under a security treaty signed with Tokyo.

Sino-Japanese ties became strained in 2012, when Japan bought the uninhabited Senkaku islands from a private owner, writes the BBC. Both Japan and China lay territorial claims to the islands, which hold great value owing to their proximity to key shipping lanes, rich fishing zones and potentially rich oil and gas reserves.

During the same time, three Russian battleships were spotted “provocatively close” to the disputed islands, prompting Japanese authorities to probe a possible connection between Moscow and Beijing, notes Voice of America.

China’s navy has a “reasonable and legal” right to operate in waters that fall under the country’s jurisdiction, said a statement issued by the Chinese defense ministry, reports Reuters. China has pressed “unilateral and coercive” claims in the South China Sea, raising concerns in Tokyo and Washington that the country may expand its presence in the East China Sea and beyond.