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Japan protests as Chinese frigate sails close to disputed islands

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According to Chinese Defense Ministry statement, its missile frigate had responded to two Japanese ships entering its claimed waters.

The Japanese government confirmed Friday that a submarine spotted just outside Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea the day before was a Chinese naval vessel, according government sources. He also called sending a submarine to the area a "unilateral escalation in new form" and urged China not to do it again.

The submarine was first detected on Thursday in waters contiguous to Japan's territory around the islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

They say the submarine continued to move northwest and left the contiguous zone into the East China Sea without resurfacing.

Located around 150 km northeast of Taiwan, the uninhabited Senkaku Islands have an area of about 7 sq km and are said to possibly be rich in marine and energy resources. The sub exited the contiguous zone and headed toward the Senkakus on Thursday morning.

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In 2004, the government ordered an SDF maritime security operation after a Chinese nuclear submarine intruded into Japanese waters around the Saki-shima island chain, southern Japan.

Beijing said it firmly opposed and was strongly dissatisfied with Japan's actions, which had "mixed up right and wrong", the statement said. "We urge the Japanese side not to create artificial incidents around Diaoyu and make efforts jointly with China to improve bilateral relations in the spirit of a consensus reached in 2014", Chinese Foreign Ministry's spokesman Lu Kang said Thursday. It then re-entered the contiguous zone around Taisho Island, which is part of the Senkakus, before leaving that afternoon.

Also off Taisho Island, a Chinese Navy frigate reportedly entered the contiguous zone twice on Thursday. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga warned China "not to undermine the trend of improvement in Japan-China relations".

Onodera made the statement during a visit to Hawaii Thursday.

Chinese officials defended the move Thursday, saying that the Senkakus are China's territory and that the incident was instigated by two Japanese navy vessels. "China's decision to guard the sovereignty of the [Diaoyu] territory is unshaken". A Chinese frigate was last seen in the contiguous zone in June 2016.

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