CHINESE BUOYS FOCUS OF LATEST DISPUTE OVER CONTESTED ISLANDS
The New York Times, February 22, 2013
TOKYO – Japan has asked the Chinese government to explain why Chinese ships have strategically placed several buoys in the East China Sea near a group of disputed islands, a Japanese government spokesman said Friday.
The spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, told reporters that ships from China’s State Oceanic Administration, which is similar to the coast guard, had placed the buoys last week in Chinese-controlled waters near the islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in Chinese. The uninhabited islands have been controlled by Japan for decades, but are claimed by China and also Taiwan.
Japanese media reported the buoys might be used to track Japanese submarines in waters around the uninhabited islands, where Japanese and Chinese ships have chased each other in recent months. If so, their placement could represent another step in an ominous escalation in the standoff, which began with coast guard and other non-military ships, but has recently begun to involve more heavily armed navy ships.
Tensions over the islands flared up in September, after the Japanese government announced that it would buy three of the five islands from their private owner, setting off violent street protests in China. The Chinese government responded by sending oceanic administration and other non-military ships into Japanese-claimed waters on almost a daily basis.
Earlier this month, tensions seemed to rise when Japan said that a Chinese navy frigate had briefly used a missile-directing radar to make a target of a Japanese military ship. China has denied doing that.
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