(From Asahi Shimbun)
A Chinese Navy intelligence ship apparently engaged in information-gathering activities in waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands on Nov. 12, the Defense Ministry reported.
The ship may have been attempting to gather information on the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s major exercise conducted in waters south of Japan each November, ministry sources said.
The vessel approached the contiguous zone of the Senkaku Islands 44 kilometers from their coastlines, but refrained from entering Japan’s territorial water, which stretches 22 km from the islets.
MSDF patrol aircraft confirmed that the Chinese vessel traveled from east to west and back in the high seas between the Senkaku Islands and the Sakishima island chain all day.
It is the first time that a Chinese military vessel has been confirmed as operating in this section of the waters.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said it was “abnormal” for a Chinese vessel to repeatedly travel back and forth instead of passing through the waters near the islands.
“We are determined to defend our country’s land, sea and airspace,” the top government spokesman said at a news conference on Nov. 13. “The government will implement thoroughgoing surveillance activities in waters and airspace surrounding the nation.”