China defends deployment of naval ship to Japan-claimed islands

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  Jan. 11, 2018 at 11:38 AM
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Jan. 11 (UPI) -- China defended the deployment of a naval vessel to the Japan-claimed Senkakus, also known as the Diaoyutai Islands, after Japan issued a warning about the latest move from Beijing's military.

Beijing's foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Thursday China was exercising its territorial rights in its naval deployment.

"The Diaoyutai Islands are a natural part of Chinese territory," Lu said, adding Japan began the provocations.

"Two naval vessels of Japan's self-defense forces first entered the access zone," the Chinese spokesman said. "China's decision to guard the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai territory is unshaken."

Lu also said Japanese actions in the East China Sea "cannot change the objective fact the Diaoyutai belong to China."

Top Japanese officials are viewing the situation differently, South Korean news service News 1 reported Thursday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Japan calls on China to "not engage in actions that impede the improvement of bilateral relations."

"We will definitely defend our territory, territorial waters and airspace," Suga said.

Japan's defense ministry claimed China sent two submarines near Japan-claimed territory, including the Miyako Island in Okinawa and Taisho Island in the Senkakus.

Japan's NHK reported Japan mobilized a response near Taisho after a Chinese ship was detected in the zone adjacent to territorial waters.

Japan's military could be increasing its defense capabilities against China because of the incursions, the Asahi Shimbun reported Thursday.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the missile interceptor system Aegis Ashore, to be deployed in Japan, could be used to intercept Chinese cruise missiles, a statement that may not be well received in Beijing.

Onodera made the statement during a visit to Hawaii Thursday.

China retains a large number of cruise missiles and is developing a new missile that can reach speeds of up to Mach 5.

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