Japan has identified a Chinese warship close to the disputed East China Sea islands. The vessel's passage is legal, but its sighting comes at a time when tensions between Tokyo and Beijing are running high.
Japanese aircraft on Tuesday spotted a Chinese warship near a southern Japanese island and approximately 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the disputed islands, which are claimed by both countries.
"A Japanese aircraft spotted seven Chinese naval ships in waters 49 kilometers (30 miles) south-southeast of Yonaguni island at 7:00 am (2200 GMT)," said a Japanese ministry official.
The ships were believed to be sailing back to China following training in the Pacific Ocean.
Although Japan deems the area in which the Chinese vessels were spotted to form part of its contiguous waters, foreign ships are allowed to travel across it if they are in transit.
Japan is, nonetheless, monitoring the ships, according to Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto.
China and Japan have clashed in recent weeks over a group of islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku islands in Japanese, or the Diaoyu islands in Chinese. Although Chinese surveillance vessels and fisheries patrol ships have sailed close to the islands, which Japan administers, thus far neither side has involved its military in the disagreement.
sej/kms (AP, AFP)